A former Cedars-Sinai Medical Center technologist will have to arbitrate her claims that she was wrongfully fired in 2020 for being one of many workers who complained about a lab supervisor who allegedly had a disdain for older female workers, a judge ruled Friday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra found that plaintiff Denise Ferranti’s employment agreement with the hospital provided that disputes relating to employment must be arbitrated. The judge also said that while Ferranti’s lawyers maintain the employment agreement was heavily weighted in favor of Cedars-Sinai, that argument alone does not mean the whole agreement was unfair to the plaintiff.
“In other words, the arbitration agreement is valid and enforceable,” the judge wrote.
Kalra also put a hold on Ferranti’s lawsuit pending the outcome of the arbitration and scheduled a status conference for June 8.
In her suit filed May 12, Ferranti also named her former boss, David Hildebrandt, as a defendant. Ferranti’s allegations include wrongful termination, harassment, age discrimination, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent hiring, supervision and retention.
Ferranti, now 60 years old, was 47 when she was hired in March 2010 as a cardiovascular technologist in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, earning about $160,000 annually, the suit states.
“(Ferranti) took tremendous pride in her work and being a member of the Cedars community, which was reflected in her consistently stellar performance and desire to continue learning and deepening her skills,” the suit states.
Ferranti, as the primary caregiver for a sister who is disabled due to a traumatic brain injury she suffered as a teenager, had Fridays off in order to take her sibling to weekly medical appointments, the suit states.
Hildebrandt was named manager of the lab where Ferranti worked in 2018, despite not having a California nursing license or the experience needed run the facility, including understanding use of the equipment, the severity of patients’ illnesses and post-op transitions to appropriate floors or ICUs, the suit alleges.
In the summer of 2019, Hildebrandt started asking Ferranti why she needed to take Fridays off, “questioning the legitimacy of her need to care for her sister and intimating that (Ferranti) was lying or insufficiently dedicated to her job,” according to the suit.
Hildebrandt also displayed unusual behavior by roaming the halls in the middle of the night outside of his daytime shift, saying he had insomnia from the stimulant he was taking, the suit states. His staff also regularly complained about his “peeping Tom” style of management in which he peered through windows of the break room, procedure rooms and the women’s locker room, the suit states.
Hildebrandt excused older female staff members at the end of their shifts so they would not have to be paid overtime, but he did not do the same with young female workers, the suit states.
During a weekly lab worker meeting in March 2019, the lab staff complained about Hildebrandt’s “management, harassment and bullying,” including the termination of one nurse and the resignation of a doctor, the suit states. That summer, lab nurses, technologists and physicians also met with upper management to discuss Hildebrandt’s “incompetence” in running the facility, according to the suit.
Although all lab workers were later required to take training on how to interact with difficult personalities, Hildebrandt was not disciplined, the suit states.
“Cedars’ failure to take action in response to the myriad complaints lodged against Hildebrandt by (Ferranti) and others amounted to Cedars ratifying and condoning his incompetent, unethical and violative conduct,” the suit alleges.
Hildebrandt also assigned Ferranti to work nursing shifts outside of the main hospital in an environment where she was constantly exposed to COVID-positive patients, despite her sister’s compromised immune system and extreme vulnerability to the disease, the suit states. Hildebrandt additionally changed the plaintiff’s shift so that she could no longer take her sister to her Friday medical appointments, the suit alleges.
Ferranti was suspended in mid-May 2020 for allegedly working overtime without approval and she was fired at the end of that same month after being accused of time card fraud, the suit states.
“Instead of addressing the multiple, persistent complaints against Hildebrandt … or doing anything to correct the increasingly toxic work environment he perpetuated, Cedars terminated plaintiff’s employment on fabricated, specious grounds at the height of an unprecedented global health crisis,” the suit states.
The hospital’s real reasons for firing Ferranti had to do with her age and salary as well as her complaints about Hildebrandt, the suit alleges.
However, in their court papers, attorneys for the hospital and Hildebrandt stated that Ferranti was indeed fired in May 2020 after an internal investigation allegedly found that she falsified her time records in violation of the hospital’s policy.
Ferranti has suffered emotional distress and humiliation with symptoms of trauma, deep depression, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, extreme stress and weight gain, the suit states.