Kaiser Permanente settles employee racial discrimination suits for $18.9M
Fierce Healthcare, April 24, 2021
by Dave Muoio
Kaiser Permanente has settled two class-action race discrimination lawsuits brought by current and former employees for a total of $18.9 million, according to statements from the plaintiffs’ legal representation and the health system.
The first $11.5 million settlement covers roughly 2,225 Black employees who fall within the administrative support and consulting services job families at Kaiser Permanente’s locations.
Alongside the money, the system agreed “to institute comprehensive workplace programs to ensure that Black employees’ compensation and opportunities for advancement are fair and equitable” as part of the agreement, according to the plaintiffs’ announcement.
The case was filed in the San Francisco County Superior Court and comes after more than two years of negotiations between the parties, the plaintiffs said.
Going forward, Kaiser will retain a mutually agreed upon independent consultant who will develop and manage a job analysis review over the course of a year. From this, the system will implement career development guides and other resources for Black employees working in the named job families.
Other measures agreed upon as part of the settlement include an independent, equity-focused annual pay analysis for the next three years and the appointment of an internal compliance officer to ensure these new policies are met appropriately.
“As an African American current employee, I have come forward to raise issues of racial equity to make our workplace stronger,” Charleta Dabrowski, a named plaintiff who currently works at Kaiser as an operations specialist, said in a statement. “I support new programs dedicated to ensuring equal pay and fair opportunities for Black, Indigenous and People of Color at Kaiser Permanente.”
The second case was brought against Kaiser last June by former employee Michael Cuenca on behalf of roughly 2,500 Latinx staff working in administrative support, consulting services and other similar positions among Kaiser entities.
It alleged that the organization was paying these employees less than white workers and disproportionately hired them to lower-paying positions.
Kaiser settled this case for $7.4 million and agreed to complete internal reforms similar to the previous case for the company’s Hispanic and Latinx employees.
“Mr. Cuenca firmly believes that Kaiser Permanente, as one of our state’s biggest employers, should represent the diversity of California and be fully inclusive of Hispanic and Latino people, who are a vital and growing part of the population,” Bryan Schwartz, who acted as Cuenca’s counsel, said in a statement. “Mike raised these issues of racial and ethnic discrimination and pay disparities, in part, to help create better job opportunities for Hispanic and Latino Californians and believes this settlement will help move Kaiser in that direction.”
“It is because of our commitment to equity and fairness that we have been especially saddened to learn that any employee would feel discriminated against at Kaiser Permanente,” the system told Fierce Healthcare in an emailed statement.
“While various elements of the lawsuits are subject to dispute, we recognize the importance of listening to and learning from our employees. To that end, we have chosen to work cooperatively with plaintiff groups to settle two class action lawsuits on negotiated terms,” Kaiser said.
Statements from the plaintiffs and Kaiser also referenced internal programs announced last year by the system that aim to support workplace inclusivity.
“This moment has given us the opportunity to accelerate the work already well underway to benefit, in particular, approximately 4,800 current and former Black and Latinx employees in California in the administrative support and consulting services job categories,” the organization said.
Kaiser brought in $2.2 billion in operating income last year and increased its health plan membership by nearly 110,000 members to 12.4 million, the integrated system disclosed in February as part of its most recent earnings report. Its expenses also jumped 6% year over year from $81.8 billion to $86.5 billion.
Numerous organizations are re-examining their role in racial discrimination after a year of cultural unrest, and healthcare is no exception.
Among the workforce, a study published last month by George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health researchers found that Black, Hispanic and Native American people were underrepresented across a slew of healthcare professions. The authors said educational disparities and other barriers played a role in these staffing trends.
Organizations like CommonSpirit Health have recently launched new partnership programs designed to help close such gaps in representation.
The healthcare industry has also turned its focus toward race-based disparities in care delivery and outcomes.
In February, for instance, more than 20 health system members of the Catholic Health Association made new commitments to addressing health disparities. Professional groups have adjusted their policies and practices to support anti-racist concepts, while regulators and experts have sounded the alarm on racially biased algorithms and other tech tools that could further increase disparities.
When no other attorney would touch my case, Bryan took it on with zeal. Since then, the EEOC certified a class action and has ruled in our favor in every motion the other side has thrown at us. A five-star rating does not come close…
I was fortunate to have found Bryan Schwartz Law while searching for reputable and reliable law firms in the Oakland area that specialized in labor law, and I couldn’t be more pleased by the results they secured for my family on my father’s behalf! After…
Bryan's firm came highly recommended to deal with an employment discrimination and harassment case. Bryan and his staff were very professional, ethical, extremely organized and diligent. They are strong advocates who worked extremely hard to get me a very fair resolution to my case. I…
Bryan Schwartz is an attorney who gives good, sound advice and empowers you to believe in your convictions. I reached out to him because no other attorney wanted to assist me. Bryan has been my advocate for the last six years. He is compassionate, empathetic…
Bryan Schwartz is without a doubt a fantastic attorney. As tenacious as he is intelligent, I would absolutely recommend his services to anyone seeking justice. Not only is his legal expertise top notch, his interpersonal skills with his clients are superb as well. Working with…
Bryan and his team were highly recommended by a friend and another attorney. I reached out to Bryan when I was sick, hurting and afraid, not knowing what to expect or how to ask for help. Bryan offered to help, he and his team fought…
When I first met Bryan, and the team at Bryan Schwartz Law, I was blown away by how understanding, sympathetic, and outright dismayed they were to the unlawful situation my coworkers and I were (to say the least) uncomfortably having to endure and work through.…
Bryan Schwartz represented me successfully in mediating my age discrimination claim against a large employer....[T]here can be few lawyers with greater legal acumen or a more relentless drive to get an acceptable result for their clients. Bryan is all business and probably works too hard.…
I could never imagine having any other attorney on my side when I needed someone. This office is beyond professional and intelligent from the person answering the phone right to the attorneys. These attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you.
These guys were amazing. Just on the ball, knowledgeable and friendly as hell. I presented my case over the phone and I immediately got some preliminary feedback which was awesome. I was asked for more details which I provided via email the next day. Two…
Schedule an initial consultation to have Bryan Schwartz Law
evaluate your situation.
*Your submission of an intake request form does not guarantee that Bryan Schwartz Law will take your case or provide legal advice. You must be offered and sign a representation agreement with the firm before you will receive any legal advice.
How did we do?
Note: Your review may be shared publicly.