LOS ANGELES – A former Cedars-Sinai Medical Center employee is suing the hospital, alleging she was wrongfully fired in June after 24 years at the facility on a pretext of stealing a Russian tea set in order to hide management’s discriminatory reasons.
The Los Angeles Superior Court suit claims that Gayane Barsegyan’s Armenian ethnicity, her ability to speak Russian and her disability from an off- duty injury made her a target of harassment, which began immediately after she returned from the first of two disability leaves and asked for accommodations.
Barsegyan alleges wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment, discrimination, failure to take all steps to prevent discrimination and harassment. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Monday.
A Cedars-Sinai spokesman said the hospital does not comment on pending litigation.
Barsegyan was hired in October 1998 as a lab assistant and at the time of her firing her job title was an emergency department assistant clerk who entered data, administered patient intakes, completed paperwork for transferred patients and answered phones, the suit states.
She was injured last November walking on a sidewalk and was placed on disability leave in early January, the suit states. She returned in June and was immediately summoned to an interview by the emergency room’s assistant manager, who told the plaintiff she was being investigated concerning the whereabouts of a Russian tea set missing from the dictation room, according to the suit.
The June 8 interview was “exceptionally long, aggressive and hostile,” lasting almost two hours, causing the plaintiff severe emotional distress and leaving her “extremely frightened,” the suit states.
The only evidence management had for their theft accusation was a grainy video showing her leaving the dictation room with a bag in which she carried her lunch throughout her employment, the suit states.
Cedars suspended Barsegyan, who said she felt so ill after the interview her doctor placed her back on a disability leave that was to last until September.
Barsegyan met with management and human resources two days later and was told she was being fired because the investigation found that she “may” be responsible for taking the Russian tea set, the suit states.
Barsegyan “felt that she was targeted for this crime simply because she spoke Russian” and because she took six months off during her first disability leave, according to her suit.