A Black former phlebotomist who took blood at UCLA medical facilities in Santa Monica and Westwood settled her suit against the University of California Board of Regents, in which she alleged that her supervisors and co-workers engaged in a pattern of racially motivated discrimination, harassment and bullying.
Lawyers for 40-year-old Takesha Essombe maintained that she was fired in 2018 a week after complaining about her work environment to her supervisor. Her attorneys recently filed court papers with Judge Teresa Beaudet stating that the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in April 2020 was resolved, but no terms were divulged.
The settlement comes two years after a jury ordered the UC regents to pay Nicole Birden $1.58 million because of the racial harassment to which she was subjected while working as a phlebotomist at the same UCLA medical facility in Santa Monica.
Birden’s co-workers and bosses subjected Essombe to the same type of discrimination, made disparaging remarks about her skin color and harassed her with repeated calls to her work phone while she was drawing blood, according to her lawsuit.
Essombe, who was hired in 2015, alleged that she was given an unfair number of blood draws compared to non-Black colleagues and that no corrective action was taken when she complained. She further maintained that dispatchers assigned her blood draws while she was already doing another blood draw.
Essombe also alleged that she, like Birden, was often denied career employment opportunities given to other less qualified non-Black phlebotomists. Two of the same supervisors who ignored the harassment against Birden did nothing to stop similar treatment against Essombe and committed misconduct themselves, including using the “N-word” and the term “pickaninny,” the suit alleged.
Essombe further alleged that the UC regents denied Black phlebotomists equal opportunity for career employment and relegated them to inferior shifts and assignments.
In their court papers, the UC regents’ attorneys argued that Essombe’s suit was “completely devoid of any allegations which explicitly or even impliedly establish” evidence of a hostile work environment based on the plaintiff’s race.