LOS ANGELES – A former Kaiser Permanente employee is suing the health care provider, alleging he was wrongfully fired in February for taking time off to be with his wife as she underwent cancer surgery and to assist her during her recovery.
Gil Benjamin Walton’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation, discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. Walton seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Sept. 9.
A Kaiser representative released a statement Thursday saying, “As we have not had an opportunity to review the facts of this lawsuit, and due to pending litigation and this case being a personnel matter, we are unable to comment at this time.”
Walton, now 57, worked for Kaiser Permanente for more than eight years as facilities director of its Baldwin Park hospital, overseeing the work of 30 employees, the suit states.
Walton’s wife, 66-year-old Marguerite Walton, contracted cancer and sought treatment with Kaiser for a growth in 2019, the suit states. However, Kaiser Permanente doctors “negligently failed to diagnose the growth as cancerous, put off basic and necessary testing and conducted only an X-ray, which failed to show the serious medical condition she had,” the suit alleges.
The suit alleges Kaiser’s failure was associated with its desire to minimize the costs of testing and related medical procedures. The woman’s tumor grew over time to a potentially life-threatening condition that required her to undergo surgery and chemotherapy, the suit states.
Walton, who is not suing Kaiser for malpractice, took a 12-week leave to be with his wife during her surgery and her subsequent treatment, as well as to help around their home during her recovery, the suit states.
When Walton returned to work in July 2021, his supervisors were “noticeably short, distant, curt and negative” when they engaged with Walton on any topic, including his need for his leave and the alleged negligent treatment that triggered his spouse’s worsening condition, the suit states.
“Walton was shunned, his opinions were discarded and the workplace became noticeably hostile,” according to the suit, which further states that Walton’s decisions, recommendations and day-to-day authority were questioned in a way that he felt harassed.
While Walton was on leave, Kaiser management undertook an internal investigation and Walton was told one of the vendors his department used was being probed for fraud, the suit states.
The vendor allegedly did not test all devices in the hospital’s fire suppression system, but the problem did not cause damage to the hospital, the suit states.
However, Kaiser Permanente’s human resources director accused Walton of being ” complicit with the vendor, committing fraud,” the suit states. Walton was also told that he should have had a second vendor run a report to see what the first vendor had tested, according to the suit.
Walton knew that Kaiser Permanente’s policies stated that it would have been improper for him to hire second vendors to check the accuracy of the work done by vendors that were properly hired and retained, the suit states, but he was nonetheless fired on Feb. 17, preventing him from being hired at other Kaiser facilities in West Los Angeles and Riverside, the suit states.
Walton has lost past and future income and suffered emotional distress, the suit states.