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Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Accused of Discrimination

UCLA | The University Of California

Five employees are suing the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, saying the hospital discriminated against them for their race and disability, according to a statement from the law firm Makarem & Associates.

Four black women accused their supervisor at Harbor-UCLA under oath of making several derogatory remarks regarding their race. Comments included telling them that black employees were “uneducated” and “lazy,” said a spokesperson for the law firm, which is co- representing the plaintiffs.

A Japanese woman, Cynthia Mayeda, is suing the hospital separately, saying the medical center discriminated against her disability, though her lawyers add that there was a racial component to the discrimination as well.

The hospital is not commenting on the case because it is a personnel matter, a spokeswoman for Harbor-UCLA said.

Although the lawsuit is against Harbor-UCLA, both parties’ complaints concern their common supervisor, chief radiological technologist Candyce Gray.

Gray and her attorney, Diana Ratcliff of Peterson & Bradford, LLP, declined to comment.

The two lawsuits were filed approximately a year and a half ago, and the Mayeda case finished depositions in September. The case concerning the four women, brought forth by Zena Branson, is currently in the process of recording depositions.

Both plaintiff parties are suing for monetary damages of an unspecified amount, a spokeswoman for Makarem & Associates said.

The plaintiffs repeatedly brought complaints to the hospital against Gray but were overlooked by the hospital administration, said Marni Folinsky, senior associate at Makarem & Associates, one of two firms representing the plaintiffs.

“The issue just went ignored, and (Gray) was never relocated or talked to,” Folinsky said. “My clients weren’t going to be taken advantage of any longer and let this happen to other people.”
Branson, Vickie Moore, Laverne Geh, and Brenda Lee-Richardson said they have been insulted multiple times and accused Gray of denying them promotions based on their race.

“The paperwork speaks for itself,” Branson said. “They are wasting taxpayers’ money with this lawsuit. (The hospital) could have fixed it internally.”
Harbor-UCLA is owned and operated by the county and is formally affiliated with UCLA’s schools of medicine, nursing, and dentistry.

Gray is also the subject of Mayeda’s discrimination suit. Mayeda, a nursing attendant supervisor in the radiology department, sustained an injury at the workplace that resulted in a ruptured disk in her back and a leg injury.

“Cynthia’s office was in the parking lot bungalows, so she was running back and forth between the hospital and her office,” Folinsky said. “She asked to have office space within the department because of her injury, but Gray kept denying her request.”

Folinsky added that all of the complaints filed against Gray were ignored by hospital administrators.

“Everybody ignored these women,” she said.

According to the press release, Mayeda said the county of Los Angeles retaliated after she filed a complaint by transferring her to another facility.

Branson, Moore, Geh, and Lee-Richardson were also forced to do work above their job descriptions without additional pay, Folinsky said. Branson frequently performed the duties of a lead nursing attendant even though her official title of “nursing attendant two” was one rank below, she said, adding that Moore performed the duties required of a dark room technician while being paid as a nursing attendant.

“It’s not just about a few remarks, but rather about creating a hostile work environment, retaliating for any complaints made and failing to promote people according to merit,” said Christina Kim, an attorney for Rastegar & Matern, the other firm representing the plaintiffs.

Mayeda v. Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, County of Los Angeles, will be brought to trial in March. Zena Branson, et al v. Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, will be brought to trial in May

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