LOS ANGELES – A jury has awarded $1.2 million to a former nurse at a Palms nursing home who said she was forced to resign in 2019 because she could no longer tolerate working conditions after witnessing alleged irregularities in the handling of some Medicare patients.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for less than a half-day Friday before finding in favor of plaintiff Malissa White in her constructive discharge suit brought against Overland Terrace Healthcare & Wellness Centre LP.
Defense attorneys denied any liability on the part of the facility.
White was hired to provide services at the Overland Avenue facility, also called Country Villa South Convalescent Center, in March 2018. Five months later, White was promoted to the position of minimum data set nurse, in which she was responsible for assessing the health needs of all residents on Medicare, according to the suit.
In February 2019, White began witnessing alleged illegal activity at the facility, including the admission of Medicare patients using certification forms that were pre-signed by a doctor and otherwise blank, the suit states.
“It was even more shocking that staff at Country Villa South joked about submitted fraudulent forms in group Whats App texts by saying that they obtained the physician’s pen so the fraudulent submissions could look more realistic,” the suit stated.
White herself was asked to falsify records and encouraged to increase the level of acuity for some of the Medicare patients, all in an effort to collect improper fees from Medicare, the suit brought in October 2019 alleged.
White complained internally about the issues, including to human resources, the suit stated. However, after her initial reports, her supervisor allegedly began to treat her differently and got angry at her for several insignificant matters. During a work-related class session, the boss, in reference to White’s Muslim husband, asked the plaintiff if she wrapped up her head like other Muslim wives, the suit stated.
Despite White’s internal reports and those to the state Department of Public Health, the Country Villa South staff continued to falsely admit patients and wanted the plaintiff to falsify documents, the suit stated.
“Ms. White felt like she was in the middle of a Medicare fraud scheme and she couldn’t handle the stress,” the suit stated. “She was told on several occasions that this happens all the time.”
The stress from her job environment caused her to miscarry what would have been her fourth child in April 2019 and she resigned a month later, according to the suit.