Eva Knott 10:44 a.m., May 18
Kaiser faces new discrimination lawsuit
Plaintiff says male doctors routinely refer to female coworkers as "bitches" and "walking vaginas"
Health care provider Kaiser Foundation is the subject of a lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles County concerning the effective termination of Joan Elkins, M.D., who claims that she was forced out of her job after over 20 years of service as the result of gender-based discrimination perpetrated by a “good ‘ol boys club” including defendants Stephen Goldberg, M.D., and Daniel Meltzer, M.D, both assigned as her supervisors.
Elkins says she, along with other female doctors, were routinely referred to by male doctors as “bitch[es]” and “walking vaginas,” among other more vulgar references, and referring to women taking maternity leave as being on “pregnancy vacation.” She further alleges that upon reporting such activities, as well as violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, she faced retaliation from the company. Actions against Elkins allegedly included stripping her of her position as regional head of the Family Violence Prevention Program and her removal from the Physician Leadership Program, which came with a 20 percent reduction in pay.
After blowing the whistle on gender discrimination, reported inadequate patient care, and violations of the aforementioned Act, Elkins took sick leave related to major depression from November 2011, to June 2012. During that time, Elkins was called to give testimony related to another doctor, Nancy J. Goodman, who also claimed gender discrimination and won her claim through arbitration.
When Elkins was cleared by her doctor to return to work, she claims she was blocked from resuming her former role, as Kaiser falsely claimed that she would need to complete additional training and certifications before returning.
“In my 37 years of practice, I have not encountered such obstacles for a patient or doctor to be re-integrated back into their workplace once they have recovered,” wrote Elkins’ psychiatrist about her ordeal, as quoted in her complaint. “If you care about your doctors at Kaiser, please help her to resume work by reducing the number of obstacles to her return.”
Kaiser gave Elkins an ultimatum: return to work under the same supervisors who had previously created the hostile working environment that caused her depression, or resign. She claims this effectively led to her termination last August.
Elkins has requested a jury trial and seeks damages in relation to the violations alleged in her complaint.