Kaweah Health named in employment discrimination case

A former senior-level manager claims she was discriminated against and eventually fired from her job at the Kaweah Delta Health Care District because of her race and because she refused to ignore widespread misconduct.


Suit Alleges Racial Bias, Whistleblower Retaliation

The allegations of bias and wrongdoing are detailed in a lawsuit filed in Tulare County Superior Court. Plaintiff Gail Robinson, one-time health information management director for the district, is seeking cash compensation for alleged damages to her career, as well as attorney’s fees.

The lawsuit enumerates multiple claims by Robinson that she was maltreated because she is African American. Additionally, the suit describes a series of supposed misdeeds by various personnel at Kaweah Health. Alleged incidents include safety violations, Medicare and documentation fraud, improper medical practices, and inappropriate disclosure of medical records with identifying patient information.

As health information management director, Robinson would likely have been tasked with the management and maintenance of patient information with a responsibility for its accuracy, completeness and security. Such employees are generally under direct supervision of an officer-level executive. Robinson held the position from September 2019 until October of 2022.

Robinson is represented by Beverly Hills-based attorney Jonathan Genish.

A website for the law firm representing Robinson calls Genish “an award-winning trial attorney” who has represented “A-list celebrities” and Fortune 500 companies. Previously, he worked for “different high-end boutique litigation firms” in Los Angeles.

The case was filed on August 7. A case management hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. on December 5 before Judge Brett Hillman in Department 7.


Kaweah Health Issues Statement

While district policy prohibits discussing publically ongoing or pending litigation against it, Kaweah Health spokeswoman Karen Tallalian issued a brief statement on district policy as it pertains to the allegations:

As a matter of practice, Kaweah Health has an active and robust compliance program and thoroughly investigates all suspected illegal, abusive, or unethical conduct. In compliance with federal and state whistleblower protections, Kaweah Health strictly enforces its non-retaliation policies. Employees are encouraged and Kaweah Health supports its employees to use any one of the reporting systems in place to bring forth concerns without fear of retaliation.

Genish’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the case.


Department’s Only African American

As the only African-American employee in her department, Robinson experienced ongoing race-based harassment and mistreatment, her suit alleges. Others in the department got along well with each other, but excluded Robinson from work and social events, according to court filings.

“Ms. Robinson found herself sitting alone during meetings, while everyone else grouped together,” the suit alleges. “Such behavior conveyed a hostile message to Robinson and left her excluded from relevant work-related discussions.”

The suit also claims Robinson was falsely accused of trying to influence the hiring of a person district administrators believed was related to her. The accusations against Robinson were also racially-motivated, the suit says.

“The applicant had Ms. Robinson’s maiden name,” the suit states. “Directors at Kaweah constantly questioned Ms. Robinson’s integrity by implying that she had deceitfully recommended an applicant of the same race, who they claim was related to her, despite her telling them she is not related to the applicant in any way.”

The suit singles out at least one incident of alleged racial discrimination against Robinson.

“Specifically, Raleen Larenz, director of human resources used coded stereotyping language describing Ms. Robinson as ‘angry’ in front of Jamie Morales, director of talent acquisitions, and other Kaweah employees when discussing this topic,” it says.

Finally, the suit alleges Robinson requested and was denied an increase in pay when given additional job responsibilities. The suit claims that in a similar situation involving a “Caucasian” woman, that employee was given two wage increases without requesting them. Robinson’s request for a raise came in June 2020, 10 months after beginning her job with Kaweah Health.


Allegations of Improper, Illegal Conduct at Kaweah Health

Beyond claims of racial bias in a single office at Kaweah Health, the suit reports multiple incidents of ongoing misconduct in various departments in the district.

Throughout her three years of employment at the district, Robinson’s suit says she complained to superiors about the allegedly improper and illegal actions, implicating employees and contractors in both healthcare and administrative positions. Robinson’s repeated complaints were directly responsible for her dismissal, her attorney states.

Implicated directly in the suit are Ben Cripps, the district’s chief compliance and risk officer, and Malinda Tupper, Kaweah Health’s chief financial officer.

“Ms. Robinson’s termination was undoubtedly connected to her history of challenging defendants’ wrongdoings and her refusal to comply with the illegalities she reported,” the suit states. “This was the norm for Kaweah. Ms. Tupper told (Robinson) that Mr. Cripps was in the process of terminating employees who he believed would ‘blow the whistle’ on the organization.”


Medical Staff and Administration Accused

Robinson claims the health of babies in the pediatric department was inadequately assessed on a regular basis. She also alleges no “notes of evaluation” were filed following the death of a child born prematurely. Members of staff also improperly signed medical orders on behalf of physicians, she claims.

Nurses in the ICU, she alleges, were administering oxygen to patients without doctors orders.

Robinson’s most serious allegations claim Medicare fraud and illegal disclosure of patient health information.

“Ms. Robinson also reported an improper, and she believed illegal, disclosure of thousands of documents containing private medical information with identifying information of patients,” the suit states. “She had also reported Medicare fraud which she observed in her review of billing records.”

Despite her warnings to superiors, the alleged problems grew worse during the fall of 2022, the suit says. Robinson made a final attempt to alert administrators.

“In or around October of 2022, Ms. Robinson again reported that doctors were not filling out paperwork properly including authorizations or notations of treatment, including surgical notes, placing Kaweah’s patients at risk,” the suit states.

Robinson was fired by Kaweah Health on October 18, 2022.

17 thoughts on “Kaweah Health named in employment discrimination case

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  1. This is spot on to to the culture at Kaweah Health, its terrible. From the incompetent board to Gary Herbest. Shame the state gave them an interest free loan, they shouldve let them fail.

  2. Anyone who works for Kaweah knows the vast laws mandating truth and reporting requirements whichever department you are in. I feel for Ms Robinson as being excluded is painful. Gary Herbst and most managers do their best to promote positive job culture.
    Mistakes can certainly happen as we are all human but I’ve been there over a decade and a deliberate culture of discrimination I have not observed as a Hispanic employee.

    • Promoting positive environment? Saying and doing is two different things. No way in hell. Sure isn’t Raleen Larenz commenting to save face for Kaweah.

      Kaweah is as discriminatory towards their patients down to their workers. Don’t believe me just go check in to their ER department. Your treatment as a homeless or criminal will be treated like trash vs. as an average white person being rolled into a room there.

  3. Positive job culture? Yet that cannot retain staff? 😂☠️ mention of laws but they skirt them. Just like when they attempted to hide the overdosing of a medical scribe in the ED. oh, wait “Ree” is Hispanic, therefore, they are not racist. 🤦🏿‍♂️

  4. As an ex employee of KDH, discrimination does exist. As a visiting nurse as an advocate for many elderly I can tell you that I experienced many horrors. It will take me days to write them all here. The CEO promoting positive job culture? Really? He has engaged in attacking other hospitals which pose a viable competition and who knows how many other businesses. How is he compensating doctors want to be who give an elderly penicillin when I just finished telling him that she was allergic. The elderly stopped breathing and was placed on a ventilator. True story. From what monies are those incompetent doctors being paid from. Dr. Zhogby knows. Maybe we should ask him and doctor Said?

    Asa for questionable practices, we need to find out what KDH is doing with Quail park money. They are partners with that company. Has KDH engaged in profiting for their top donnors, Investors so they put profits over patients who have contributed via property taxes? What is going on in the blood bank and heart surgeries? What is going on with huge donations to the Tim Ward and his District attorney campaign? Why? So now we have a TCDA and his office on the KDH speed dial? For what Purpose? To target the competitors of KDH? Lets open the books on those payments. Lets have transparency!!!! As property tax payers, you all have the right to ask.

  5. The truth about Kaweah is finally out. I praise Ms. Robinson for speaking up to those they silent all these years. More former employee should speak out on this. As a former employee myself, I was directed to do some of these fraudulent billing. Gail is not wrong. If the hospital fails to get an auth for inpt. stay. the insurance will deny the claim. Case management can NOT convert the visit to outpatient observation just to get paid. That’s fraud. HR Releen L. only protect management and will direct management what to say to those employee addressing retaliation or mistreatment. No support to other employee if you’re not in management. This continues till either you’re fired or you just end up quitting in defeat or to save your sanity. Patient accounting department management is just as horrible or a nightmare (Chris Rodriguez and Frances Carrera)

    • Discrimination at Kaweah does exist. Less than 5% of their employee is African American. Kaweah statistically doesn’t hire African American employees. Ask Frances Carrera- director and Chris Rodriguez-manager why they escorted out their only African American employee during termination when that’s not their norm.

  6. They have also violated several labor laws that include WAGE THEFT. They use threat, bullying, and shunning to abuse, coerce, and “discipline” employees to hide their dirty deeds.

  7. It is well known among long-term staff who know the “culture” at KD; that “underground” unlawful employment practices are prevalent there. Senior Leadership will target, and seek to find ways to cause separation (i.e. Fire or pressure someone to resign) those they consider are “problem” employees (i.e. anyone who complains. or brings legitimate concerns that leadership does not want to acknowledge).

    I have no doubt that this lady has an admissible complaint/s based on what I have seen happen to others over the years. HR is also complicit in some of these situations; HR VP works hard to keep things underground.

  8. It takes great courage to speak up and thank you for Ms ROBINSON for creating this space for us to share our experience as former employees.
    Chris and Frances: What you said about getting no support from management is pretty accurate. I feel like as an employee, there’s no place to complain b/c mgmt and HR never is supportive because they don’t want to deal with problem(s). the hospital is just a very toxic and unhealthy environment.

  9. Not surprising for a small conservative “Mayberry town” founded on local “Good ol’ Boy” culture. I’ve been a resident here for many years and have only heard countless horror stories from employees and ex-employees. I have not met one single person that will say anything positive about this hospital. They seem to function at a level that is 60 years behind and foster hostile work environments (managers, directors and administration). Raleen L. based on the countless lawsuits I’ve read, they should consider removing you from your position since you perpetuate this backwards culture that is a liability and financial loss for the hospital and the community. KH should strive for transparency, increase employee satisfaction and morale. The community is aware. Herbst you can change the name 100 times, use Facebook and Instagram to mask the deficiencies at KH but it doesn’t change the fact that everyone knows, especially your 2022 salary of $1,087,069.00 a year.

    • You couldn’t be more accurate in your depiction of the toxic culture perpetuated by Senior Leadership (Directors, CEO, and Governing Board). Shameful salary of a CEO in one of the poorest per-capita-income counties in California.
      The Board needs to clean house from the top down, including HR leadership.

  10. Why dont the people of Visalia vote out the idoits on the board and clean sweep the C suite? I no longer live there but as a nurse am repulsed at what I have witnessed.

  11. As a longtime employee of KD/KH and as an upper level RN I have personally witnessed racial profiling and harassment. The high levels of harassment and hostile work environment exist at every level. I have personally been affected by the Mafia, Gang mentality of management and directors. This is a widespread problem/issue at KH. Not all managers and directors at KH are like this, there are some good ones. But, the majority IMO are of the same mean, bullying, targeting variety. There are a lot of staff at KH who really care about their patients and strive to provide the best care they possibly give. Enough is enough.


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