OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — African American employees of Kaiser Permanente will share in an $11.5 million settlement of class-action, race-discrimination lawsuit against the health care giant.
Four current and former employees filed the lawsuit on behalf of more than 2,225 Black workers at Kaiser alleging discrimination when it comes to pay and promotions. For the past two years, the workers have negotiated their compensation and have advocated for systemic change within the company.
Attorneys say the settlement goes far beyond the financial settlement.
“This needs to be the status quo. People need to start listening to their employees, particularly their Black employees and not think you can push this stuff under the rug any longer,” said Felicia Medina, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs say this is the first step in addressing systemic racism in the workplace.
“If they just wanted to get a quick dollar for themselves, this would’ve gone a lot faster but they really wanted to work with Kaiser on something that would be more enduring and make systemic change,” attorney Kelly Dermody said.
Along with the $11.5 million settlement, Kaiser will implement comprehensive workplace programs to compensate and promote Black employees.
“Kaiser wanted to dance and they took the approach of ‘we want to do better’ and that is rare, that is extremely rare,” Dermody said.
Kaiser Permanente says it has been working to create a racially inclusive workplace and, in a statement, wrote, “We have been especially saddened to learn that any employee would feel discriminated against at Kaiser Permanente. While various elements of the lawsuits are subject to dispute, we recognize the importance of listening to – and learning from our employees.”
While the plaintiffs are celebrating the outcome of the lawsuit, they realize the work to create a level playing field has just begun.
“At some point, morality has to kick in here and the only way of doing business where it’s just the bottom line is not going to work anymore,” Medina said.
The programs that are implemented will be monitored for several years by the legal team to ensure they are working to create equal pay and equal opportunities.