Dialysis Center Worker Fired for Speech, SEIU Says

From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...

By Jaclyn Diaz

A patient care technician was fired after 16 years on the job for speaking in support of a proposal that would mandate more staff and annual inspections at California’s dialysis clinics, the SEIU-UHW alleged.

Emerson Padua, who worked at the DaVita Valley View dialysis center in Moreno Valley, Calif., was allegedly retaliated against for supporting SB 349, the Dialysis Patient Safety Act, and for his union affiliation, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West said. The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director in Los Angeles May 25.

DaVita fired Padua May 24, a day after he spoke at a rally at the California Capitol in support of the bill. SEIU-UHW has been trying to organize workers at DaVita and Fresenius dialysis clinics for the better part of a year The two companies provide 75 percent of dialysis care in the state, according to the union.

Three other employees involved in the union effort were also fired, Cass Gualvez, an organizing director for SEIU, told Bloomberg BNA May 26. The complaint only addresses Padua’s termination, however.

Padua’s and the union’s claims are incorrect, DaVita said in a statement to Bloomberg BNA May 26.

“Such decisions are not made because of any teammate’s support of the union or legislation,” the statement said. “We recognize and respect each teammate’s legal right to support or not support the union or the legislation. We do not discriminate or terminate based on individual choice.”

The bill passed the state Senate Appropriations Committee May 25, but a vote by the full Senate hasn’t been scheduled yet, Michael Soller, spokesman for Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), told Bloomberg BNA.

Union: Padua Was Exemplary

Padua was considered a model employee by managers, Gualvez said. He was celebrated during his time at the clinic and trained other employees just starting out as patient care technicians, she said.

Things changed when Padua and other employees sent a letter to management explaining the need for a union at the clinic. Since then, Padua was written up on different occasions for complaints or overtime violations that were later dropped, Gualvez said.

The employer denied that retaliation prompted the firing.

“The decision to terminate Mr. Padua’s employment was made before he spoke in support of the legislation. The decision was based solely on Mr. Padua’s work performance and was made only after a thorough review of all the relevant facts,” a representative with DaVita told Bloomberg BNA. “Consistent with practice, we cannot comment on the specific issues that led to Mr. Padua’s termination beyond this.”

Bill Puts Patients at Risk, Group Says

SB 349 would mandate annual inspections of dialysis clinics, higher staffing levels and a 45-minute transition period between patients. The bill would also require the clinics to be inspected more than the current average of once every five to six years.

DialysisPatients1st, a coalition of doctors, nurses, and medical associations, opposes the bill. It says the legislation puts patient safety at risk. DaVita is a member of the coalition.

The union is pushing the bill because it wants to reduce the workload for members and to obtain better leverage to achieve higher pay, the coalition has said. The bill would establish rigid and arbitrary mandates with no flexibility for physicians to treat patients who need customized care, it said.

The union said the legislation would establish safer patient-care practices and would provide workers with more assistance.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jDiaz@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Labor & Employment on Bloomberg Law