Former Alta Bates Summit Medical Center employee sues Sutter Health for alleged disability discrimination

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A former Alta Bates Summit Medical Center employee is suing Sutter Health for alleged harassment and discrimination based on disability.

Michele Cain, who worked as an OB technician at Alta Bates — the Berkeley campus of the Sutter Health system — sustained workplace injuries to her back, arms and shoulders in 2014, according to her complaint. Cain qualified as an individual with a disability that affects a major life function under the Americans with Disabilities Act and filed a workers’ compensation claim, but Sutter Health then allegedly placed Cain on unpaid leave.

From about Feb. 2014 to June 2016, Cain alleges that she attempted to engage in communication with the company to return to work because she could complete her job with “reasonable” accommodations. She alleges that the company claimed it intended to return her to work but never did.

“The accommodations CAIN requested were not burdensome and could have been easily granted at minimal cost to SUTTER/ALTA BATES,” the complaint states.

In June 2015, Cain filed a Department of Fair Employment and Housing complaint, which was amended July 13, 2015. She then alleged that Sutter Health retaliated for filing this claim. According to Cain, the company allegedly told her she could either return to her position without accommodation or voluntarily resign.

In September 2016, Sutter Health allegedly discontinued its efforts to find accommodations or an alternate position for Cain. The company later ended her medical leave and terminated her employment, according to Cain’s lawsuit.

Sutter Health declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“As a longstanding practice, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center will not discuss pending or ongoing litigation,” said Sutter Health communications manager Clayton Warren in an email.

Cain claims she suffered emotional, physical and financial damages. She is suing for damages and “other and further relief as the Court deems proper,” according to the complaint.

Contact Lauren Good at [email protected].