LOS ANGELES (CNS) - An Agoura Hills laboratory that does both genetic and coronavirus testing is being sued by a former company controller who alleges she was fired in 2020 for complaining about lax training among new employees and that Chinese workers were favored over those of other ethnic backgrounds.
Amy M. Seelig's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against PacGenomics alleges wrongful termination, retaliation and racial and national origin discrimination. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Thursday.
A PacGenomics representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
PacGenomics hired Seelig, who is white, in 2016 as a medical accountant and office manager, and as the Agoura Road firm rapidly expanded, she worked her way up through the company with higher responsibility and commensurate pay, according to her court papers. In 2017, Dr. Lian Liu, PacGenomic's president and CEO, gave her the job of controller, the suit says.
Liu and other owners and investors in the company, and the bulk of the senior managers, are ethnic Chinese, and in most of their company dealings, they spoke and wrote in Chinese, leaving out white and other non-Chinese employees like Seelig from business communications and meetings, the plaintiff alleges.
Seelig also began seeing a pattern in which PacGenomics hired and promoted Chinese employees over her, according to her court papers.
The plaintiff also alleges that due largely to COVID-19 testing demands, PacGenomics was hiring six to eight new employees each week, so fast that they could not be adequately trained. She alleges PacGenomics' limited office and laboratory space meant workers could not practice safe social distancing.
The suit further alleges that due to the many new hirings and PacGenomics's alleged favoritism toward ethnic Chinese, numerous employees had inadequate documentation and background checks. Despite being unskilled, they were assigned to work on critical DNA and COVID-19 testing, the plaintiff alleges.
The suit alleges that PacGenomics' validation for COVID testing was based on an illegally obtained sampling protocol, and the company required Seelig to bill and collect for the testing.
PacGenomics management also directed Seelig to add an extra amount to the pay of one Chinese employees for work he never performed so that his wife could be reimbursed for work she did for PacGenomics, even though she was not legally permitted to work in the U.S., the suit alleges.
PacGenomics additionally asked Seelig to bill for coronavirus tests in which the time of receipt of the samples was altered by the company lab staff so that the time of collection would meet the requirements of the airlines on which the test subjects hoped to fly, the plaintiff alleges.
“Doing so defrauded the airlines and created a health hazard for all other passengers and crew,'' according to the suit.
Although Seelig complained to management about the alleged discriminatory and improper workplace conduct and requested it be stopped, they refused to do so and she was fired just before Christmas, the suit alleges.
She was told she lost her job for improperly giving herself a 6% raise in 2017 and for “duping'' non-Chinese workers into complaining about discrimination, according to the complaint.