An organization that advocates more diversity in the legal profession was sued by a former employee who alleges she has been forced out of her job for not complying with the organization’s mandate for coronavirus vaccinations, which she says could jeopardize her health.
Kali Patrice’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Inc. alleges wrongful termination, retaliation, disability discrimination, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and failure to accommodate and engage in the interactive process. Patrice seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
An MCCA representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
MCCA is a corporate counsel association that focuses on increasing diversity in the legal profession. Patrice was hired last August as MCCA’s diversity, equity and inclusion practice leader, the suit states.
In November, MCCA announced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy in which all employees having regular direct contact with other workers were to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 31. Those without medical and disability exemptions could face discipline, including firing, the suit states.
Patrice suffers from vasculitis, which involves inflammation of the blood vessels and can cause organ and tissue damage as well as aneurysms, the suit states.
After MCCA’s vaccination announcement, Patrice was placed on an unpaid leave of absence as of Dec. 31 while she worked with her physicians to determine whether she could safely receive coronavirus vaccinations, the suit states. About a week later, she provided MCCA with request for a medical exemption, according to the suit.
Patrice’s doctor recommended she not take the vaccination at the time because of her medical condition and as an alternative she offered to be tested routinely at her expense, the suit states.
Rather than engage in the interactive process, MCCA management offered Patrice a demotion to the position of program manager, which paid $130,000 less annually than the $200,000 she was receiving at the time, the suit states. When Patrice questioned why MCCA was not trying to accommodate her, the organization offered her a package to leave the company, the suit states.
When Patrice asked if the program manager position was still available, MCCA management told her she could have it, but on an independent contractor basis without benefits, according to the suit.
Patrice is willing and able to return to work in her previous job, but she has been kept on unpaid leave since Dec. 31 and has been effectively forced out, the suit states, causing her to suffer lost wages and mental anguish.