LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Kaiser Foundation Hospitals nurse is suing the company, alleging management was slow in helping her get back to work for most of 2021 after she contracted the coronavirus from a Kaiser doctor the year before and sought accommodations.
Alleshia Jeffries' Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges failure to reasonably accommodate, disability discrimination, failure to engage in the interactive process, disability harassment and failure to prevent harassment and discrimination. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Friday.
"Kaiser Permanente has not been served with this lawsuit and therefore we have not been able to review it," a Kaiser spokeswoman said in a statement issued Saturday. "We value our employees and are disappointed when an employee is unhappy with their experience at Kaiser Permanente. We will review the allegations and respond as allowed by court procedures."
Jeffries has been employed at Kaiser's Los Angeles Medical Center in the neonatal intensive care unit since 2012 and is an outspoken advocate for patients and co-workers, the suit states. In March 2020, she was exposed to a doctor who had COVID in a break room at the facility, according to the suit, which further states that Jeffries was unaware at the time that the doctor had the coronavirus.
Three days after the exposure, Jeffries had a mild cough, fatigue and aches, but was not running fever, so she contacted Kaiser for guidance and was told to report to work, according to the suit. Jeffries eventually found out that the doctor had the coronavirus and she later contracted pneumonia, which prompted Kaiser to order her to quarantine at home for two weeks, the suit states.
Jeffries was on and off work for the remainder of 2020 as she continued to suffer lingering symptoms from COVID-19, including an impairment of her hearing, the suit states. Jeffries alleges that over an extended period of time and effort she was not accommodated by Kaiser for her hearing loss, and that Kaiser considered her request "vague," the suit states.
When Kaiser allegedly refused to accommodate Jeffries in her existing position, she began applying for other jobs within the organization, but the internal portal showed she was not under consideration for those posts, according to the suit. Management met with Jeffries in April, but she was not allowed to have her cell phone, which she uses to control her hearing aid, the suit states.
On July 1, Jeffries wrote management a letter stating she was "losing hope" and that she would take her case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if she was not accommodated within two weeks.
After having been off work since late January 2021, Jeffries returned to work on July 25 of this year -- five days after she and Kaiser had an interactive process meeting -- and Kaiser management has honored her wish to use her cell phone to control and operate her hearing aid and use her own stethoscope, the suit states. She believes she would not have been allowed to resume her job had she not threatened to file a complaint with the EEOC, according to her suit.