Plaintiffs and Kaiser Permanente Agree to $7.4 Million Equal Pay & Promotion National Origin Discrimination Class Action Settlement: The Settlement Provides Money Benefits and New Workplace Programs for Hispanic and Latinx Employees.
Oakland, California, April 23, 2021— Prominent Plaintiffs’ law firms Bryan Schwartz Law and Nichols Kaster LLP announced today that Plaintiffs have reached an agreement with Defendants Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, The Permanente Medical Group, Inc., and the Southern California Permanente Medical Group (collectively, “Kaiser Permanente”), in which Kaiser Permanente will pay $7.4 million to settle a class action national origin discrimination lawsuit. The settlement covers approximately 2,500 Hispanic and Latinx employees in Administrative Support, Consulting Services, and similar positions at each of the Kaiser Permanente entities.
In addition to monetary relief, Kaiser Permanente agrees to institute comprehensive workplace programs to ensure that Hispanic and Latinx employees’ compensation and opportunities for advancement are fair and equitable. The changes build upon work that Kaiser Permanente announced in 2020 to strengthen its efforts to ensure a racially inclusive workplace. The Agreement between the parties was reached after more than six months of negotiations, and it settles the case, Cuenca et al. v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, et al., Case No. RG20065123, filed on June 17, 2020, in the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, California.
Going forward, Kaiser Permanente will retain an independent consultant, agreed upon by all parties, to develop and manage a thorough job analysis review to be completed within one year. This review will be used to create additional equitable opportunities for Hispanic and Latinx employees, including career development guides and developmental resource guides for roles within the job families. Kaiser Permanente has also agreed to conduct an annual pay analysis for employees in the defined job classifications performed by an independent consultant for three years, wherein base pay, incentive pay, and promotions will be reviewed with an eye toward equity and swift remediation of any existing disparities. Additionally, Kaiser Permanente will continue annual pay reviews and appoint an internal Compliance officer to oversee the implementation of these policies and continued compliance with the settlement agreement. With the guidance of the findings and input and oversight by Plaintiffs’ counsel, Kaiser Permanente will make several enduring structural changes, including: investing in more leadership development initiatives for historically underrepresented groups; and additional training for employees and management on racial bias and equity, including Upstander Intervention and racial equity trainings, and debiasing programs for those engaged in enforcing company policy on equal employment opportunity. Kaiser Permanente has also agreed to appoint an internal compliance officer to oversee the implementation of these practices, continued compliance with the settlement agreement monitor and to meet with Plaintiffs’ Counsel twice each year for a 3-year compliance period to report on implementation of the terms of the Settlement.
Named Plaintiff Michael Cuenca, who is Hispanic, worked for Kaiser Permanente for 10 years in the National Diversity & Inclusion Office and the Human Resources People Analytics Group.
The court will set a hearing date for Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Approval, which if approved will issue notice to the approximately 2,500 class members. The third-party administrator will allocate settlement amounts based on an objective formula to each qualifying class member. More information will be available after the Court rules on Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary approval.
Statements on the Settlement:
Plaintiffs’ counsel Bryan Schwartz, the founder of Bryan Schwartz Law stated, “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. 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. We are proud to have helped create important corporate change at the company.”
Plaintiff’s counsel Matthew Helland of Nichols Kaster, LLP, added: “This settlement gives life to the promise of the California Equal Pay Act, resulting in millions of dollars of monetary payments for wages we believe Latinx employees deserve. Because Mr. Cuenca had the courage to step forward, thousands of Kaiser workers will benefit.”
“As a mission-driven organization, we hold ourselves accountable for living our values by strengthening our inclusive culture and expanding our work to address any disparities and their root causes. That is why we invited Plaintiffs to participate in a negotiation process that led to this settlement,” said Christian Meisner, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, speaking on behalf of the Kaiser Defendants. “Across Kaiser Permanente we are increasing our efforts to advocate for fair and just treatment, opportunity, and advancement as well as embedding accountability for equity at all levels of the organization. We will continue to promote positive change, equity, and total health for all – inside our organization and within our communities.”
Information about Plaintiffs’ Counsel:
Bryan Schwartz Law: Bryan Schwartz Law is an Oakland-based firm representing workers in class, collective, and individual actions in discrimination, wage/hour, whistleblower, and unique federal and public employee claims. Founder Bryan Schwartz practices in state and federal trial and appeals courts, in arbitration, and before a variety of administrative agencies. He is past Chair of the 8,000+ State Bar Labor and Employment Law Section (now called California Lawyers Association), and on the Board of Directors of Legal Aid at Work, the Foundation for Advocacy, Inclusion and Resources (FAIR), and is a former Board member of the California Employment Lawyers Association.
Nichols Kaster, LLP: For more than forty-five years, Nichols Kaster has enjoyed a sterling reputation as a top employment and consumer plaintiffs’ litigation firm. With over 35 lawyers in its Minneapolis and San Francisco offices, the firm has represented hundreds of thousands of employees and consumers nationwide on a variety of legal issues arising under both state and federal laws. The National Trial Lawyers and ALM have named Nichols Kaster the Employment Rights Law Firm of The Year, and U.S. News and World Reports has named Nichols Kaster a Best Law Firm and its lawyers as Best Lawyers, consecutively since 2012. Together the National Law Journal and law.com named Nichols Kaster a top 50 firm for Elite Trial Lawyers “that are doing the most creative and substantial work on the plaintiffs side.”
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