Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has reserved comment on a former employee’s lawsuit alleging he was wrongfully fired in 2020 for reporting that a colleague violated federal law by opening a valve and allowing the refrigerant Freon to be released from an air conditioning unit being repaired.
Wisam Khalel’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was filed Friday and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A CHLA spokesman released a statement Sunday regarding the suit.
“Due to circumstances of the litigation, CHLA is unable to share details about the case publicly,” the statement read.
Khalel, 49, was hired May 4, 2020 as a refrigeration mechanic, the suit states. He was working with his supervisor and a senior mechanic to replace an air conditioner part above the children’s care area in July when he was ” shocked” to see the other mechanic open a valve on the unit, allowing large amounts of Freon to escape, the suit states.
Freon is an inert gas known as R-12 used in automobile air-conditioning systems. Federal regulations forbid anyone maintaining or servicing any appliances from allowing a refrigerant to be released into the environment, so Khalel immediately expressed his concern to the others, according to the suit.
However, the supervisor allegedly responded, “Who cares, we need to get the job done.”
A few days later, Khalel reported release of the Freon to the engineering department manager, who seemed upset and told Khalel to keep working, the suit states.
A few days after Khalel reported the incident, the plaintiff’s supervisor and the other mechanic involved in the release confronted the plaintiff at work and from that point on became hostile toward him, the suit states.
After some weeks of feeling isolated, Khalel approached the engineering department manager and said he wanted to apologize if he had done something wrong in reporting the Freon release, the suit states. The manager told him to “just forget about everything and keep working because there is lots of work to be done,” the suit states.
Khalel was given a report in October stating his probationary job performance was unsatisfactory, which surprised him and prompted him to write a response, the suit states.
Khalel was fired Oct. 30 and believes the true reason was his reporting the alleged illegal release of Freon, according to the suit.