Court Affirms Dismissal of Medical Assistant’s Discrimination Lawsuit

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Arnold v. Dignity Health, 53 Cal. App. 5th 412 (2020)

Virginia M. Arnold worked as a medical assistant at Dignity Health before her employment was terminated for, among other things, failure to safeguard a patient’s personal health information (a HIPAA violation); display of inappropriate materials in the workplace (a picture of a bare-chested male model); careless performance of duties; failure to communicate honestly during the course of an investigation; and failure to take responsibility for her actions. In her lawsuit, Arnold alleged she was discriminated against based upon her age and her association with African-Americans. The trial court granted summary judgment to Dignity Health, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that alleged comments about her age from other employees who were not materially involved in Arnold’s termination did not raise a triable issue of fact – further, an employee’s expressing surprise that Arnold was “that old” around the time of her birthday did not show discriminatory animus. As for Arnold’s association discrimination claim, the Court found no evidence that the supervisor to whom she complained about alleged mistreatment of a Black coworker was involved in Arnold’s termination. Finally, the fact that Dignity allegedly failed to follow its own disciplinary process did not create a triable issue of fact regarding Arnold’s claims. See also Henry v. Adventist Health Castle Med. Ctr., 2020 WL 970 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2020) (hospital emergency department surgeon was an independent contractor and not an employee who was eligible for the protections of Title VII).

Later-Filed, Substantially Identical PAGA Claim Was Properly Dismissed

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