Last Update: Thursday, December 05, 2013
|Written by NoAuthor|
|Thursday, 19 September 2013 05:18|
LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge has dismissed a department chairman as a defendant in a lawsuit by a former City of Hope research professor who alleged she was ordered to work in rodent-infested conditions and eventually fired for making complaints.
The City of Hope, along with "Does 1 through 50,'' remain defendants in the lawsuit by Stella Tommasi, who worked for the City of Hope's Department of Cancer Biology. She sued the cancer research and treatment center April 5 in Los Angeles Superior Court, after complaining about what she believed to be improper conduct.
She also had included Gerd Pfeifer, the chairman of the cancer department, as a defendant, but Judge William Fahey on Sept. 5 agreed with the defendants' attorney and ordered that Pfeifer be dismissed as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Elsa Banuelos, attorney for Pfeifer and City of Hope, had earlier filed court papers urging the judge to dismiss the entire lawsuit as well as dismissing Pfeifer from the case as a defendant. She wrote that Tommasi had no basis for making such a "stand alone'' claim against Pfeifer since his alleged conduct occurred in the "normal course of the employeremployee relationship,'' making a workers' compensation action her exclusive remedy.
Tommasi cannot "establish that any exception to workers' compensation exclusivity'' is warranted because she "has not alleged a viable, separate cause of action.''
The judge agreed to dismiss Pfeifer as a defendant, but he rejected Banuelos' efforts to toss out the entire action.
Plaintiff Tommasi, in her court filing, said she began working for the institution in February 1993 as a postdoctoral scholar and was promoted to associate research professor in the Department of Cancer Biology in 2007 within the organization's Beckman Research Institute.
Tommasi's lawsuit states she was often praised by her superiors and co-workers and received frequent promotions based on her work performance.
In Tommasi's legal complaint that continues to be litigated, she alleged that Pfeifer at one point told Tommasi to add his name as a co-author on a report, even though he made no contribution to it. The lawsuit that no longer includes Pfeifer as a defendant still alleges she reported the incident to the administration in September 2011.
She alleged she was retaliated against, accused of incompetence and misconduct and eventually "banished'' to an isolated building without bathrooms, heat or running water.
She alleged the building was infested with mice and roaches. The City of Hope gave Tommasi notice in August 2012 that she was fired effective Feb. 2 of this year, according to the allegations in the lawsuit. Tommasi alleges she lost her job in retaliation for complaining about her treatment and work conditions.
Banuelos argued in court papers, however, that Tommasi had been working on a oneyear extension of her contract as an assistant research professor, and that contract expired Dec. 8, 2011, eight months before she was given a termination notice.
As a result, Tommasi was working as an "at-will'' employee without a contract when she received a termination notice, and she was given six months' notice, Banuelos wrote in her papers. Tommasi continued working for City of Hope for about 14 months after she lodged her complaints in September 2011, which "defeats any nexus'' between her firing and the workplace complaints, the attorney alleged.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 19 September 2013 05:20|