CHLA, Former Manager Settle Longrunning Discrimination Suit

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Children's Hospital Los Angeles and a former manager who alleged she was fired in 2017 for taking time off to be with her ill father and for protesting alleged age discrimination against a fellow employee have reached a tentative settlement in the plaintiff's long-running lawsuit.

Plaintiff Rosa Lopez also maintained in her Los Angeles Superior Court suit that she was discriminated against because she is a Latina and that she endured constant stress on the job because of what the suit called a "crushing workload."

On Wednesday, Lopez's attorneys filed court papers with Judge Robert B. Broadbelt notifying him of a "conditional" accord in the case and that a request for dismissal will be filed by Oct. 30. No terms were divulged.

Lopez was 42 years old when she sued in December 2017, saying she was hired by CHLA in 2006 as an administrative coordinator. She received regular promotions during her 11-year tenure and was manager of center operations of CHLA's hematology/oncology fellowship when she lost her job this summer, according to the complaint.

In early 2016, Lopez's supervisor told her to fire four administrative assistants, one of whom was 82 years old, the suit states. Lopez was able to re-assign three of the workers so they could continue at CHLA, but she was told the fourth person had to be let go, the suit stated.

The boss "made clear that he preferred choosing the 82-year-old woman, who was ... the oldest person in the department and perhaps all of CHLA," the suits alleged.

Despite Lopez's concerns that the elderly employee was being singled out because of her age and hearing problems, management's steadfastness forced her to relent and fire the woman, although the plaintiff was able to have it presented to the worker as a reduction in the department that included a severance package rather than a forced retirement, the suit stated.

In the summer of 2016, Lopez was forced to deal with the stress of a large workload and memories of having to fire the 82-year-old, the suit stated. Lopez complained about her work environment and her boss offered her some comfort, but "no practical support," the suit alleged.

The cutbacks in staff continued and Lopez's boss "reveled in taking support personnel away from plaintiff and watching her scramble to deal with the consequences," the suit stated.

In February, another manager became Lopez's supervisor, the suit stated. The boss rarely discussed work-related issues with the plaintiff, but regularly spoke with Lopez's peer, the suit stated.

Lopez took three days off in May 2017 to be with her ill father, returned to work, then asked for five more days to deal with the problem, the suit stated. When she returned a second time, Lopez told her boss she needed still more leave time, the suit stated.

When Lopez was fired July 13, her boss told her it was for financial reasons, the suit stated.

"Plaintiff had to walk the hallway with her personal belongings as her former staff watched ...," the suit stated.

Another Latina was fired the same time as Lopez and still more women of her ethnicity have lost their jobs since then, the suit alleged.

Lopez believes her job was filled by a younger person and that the total number of people in her former department is at the same level as before, undercutting CHLA claims that she was fired to cut costs, the suit stated.

But in their court papers, hospital attorneys maintained that CHLA determined in 2017 that it would "reduce its bloated ranks of middle management and instead dedicate more of its resources to helping sick children."

While the decision adversely impacted Lopez, it was not unlawful, according to the CHLA lawyers' court papers.

"(Lopez) has no evidence to suggest that CHLA did this for any nefarious reason; just speculation that her age, race, prior disagreement over another personnel decision and sole request to care for a family member had something to do with it," the CHLA attorneys further maintained in their court papers.

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