POMONA, Calif. – Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center has been sued by two former employees, one of them a Black nurse who survived a hospital shooting in the 1990s in Riverside County and alleges racial discrimination, and the other a human resources director who maintains she lost her job for complaining about sexual harassment.
Elizabeth T. Baker, the nurse, brought her lawsuit on Nov. 18 and Shaunette Miller, the human resources director, filed her suit on Oct. 12. Both complaints were filed in Pomona Superior Court and seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A hospital spokeswoman released a statement this week regarding the two cases.
“Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center has become aware of two lawsuits, the first alleges wrongful termination and the second alleges workplace harassment,” the statement read. “PVHMC is an equal opportunity employer that does not tolerate any form of workplace harassment. As company policy, PVHMC does not comment on the details of active litigation.”
Baker was a victim of gun violence while employed as a nurse at Corona Regional Medical Center on Aug. 9, 1993, her suit states. According to a published report at the time, a distraught woman with a gun walked into the hospital’s nursery, shot a nurse whom she followed toward the emergency room, and shot her again before being stopped by another nurse who disarmed the gun-wielding intruder.
The gunshot wounds Baker suffered in the 1993 incident left her with physical and mental injuries that persist to the present, the Baker suit states.
Baker was hired as an obstetrics nurse at PVHMC in October 2003 and assigned to the Labor Delivery Recovery Postpartum Dept. in the hospital’s Women’s Center, her suit states.
Starting in 2005, a charge nurse began to disparage Baker, who is Black, about her appearance and made bets with the plaintiff’s co-workers about whether Baker’s hair was real or “had to be a wig or a weave,” the Baker suit states.
During Baker’s work breaks, the same charge nurse would ask the plaintiff racist questions, including whether all Black people eat watermelon and fried chicken and if they shake pepper all over their food before they taste it, the Baker suit states.
In another incident, a Baker supervisor confronted the plaintiff about her medical leave subsequent to her having thyroid surgery, saying, “Why didn’t you have your surgery done when you were off the last time, you keep abandoning all your coworkers, you’re going to end up getting fired,” the Baker suit states.
Baker consulted with PVHMC’s Human Resources Dept. for advice regarding the ongoing issues she was having with the charge nurse and others, but nothing substantive was done, the Baker suit states.
Baker was fired in November 2019 “under the false pretext of forgery, among other pretextual reasons,” the Baker suit alleges.
The second plaintiff, Miller, was hired in June 2019 as a human resources director, overseeing recruitment, employment, compensation and staff development, the Miller suit states.
Shortly after Miller started at PVHMC, her supervisor began sexually harassing her on the job, but nothing was done about his alleged misconduct, the Miller suit alleges. The boss also made “lewd and inappropriate comments” to Miller about his private life and the plaintiff’s physical appearance, according to her suit.
The same boss often commented on Miller’s clothing, including scolding her for donning leggings, the Miller suit states.
When Miller again complained about her boss’ alleged discriminatory and retaliatory conduct, an investigator assigned to hear her concerns turned out to be someone close to the plaintiff’s supervisor, the Miller suit states.
“(Miller) expressed deep concerns about this conflict of interest and lack of objectivity, but continued to actively cooperate with the investigation,” the Miller suit states.
The final report of the investigator absolved Miller’s supervisor of any wrongdoing and the plaintiff was fired on Aug. 10, Miller’s suit states.
Miller has experienced severe financial losses and emotional distress because of the actions of PVHMC management, her suit states.