Former Eden Medical Center Employees File Suit Against Hospital Over Working Conditions
Former employees of Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley filed a lawsuit against the hospital Tuesday for allegedly "exposing them to a toxic working environment that led to cancer and other illnesses, then firing them when they reported the problem," the San Jose Mercury News reports. The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward on behalf of 15 former Eden employees, most of whom worked in billing services. According to the suit, the problem began in 1985 when the hospital transferred the plaintiffs to a nearby office building. Soon after, the employees "complained" about "toxic, unsafe working conditions" at the building, according to the complaint, which said that tests conducted in 1986 and 1987 found that the building had an "inadequate" ventilation system that forced employees to breathe "unsafe levels" of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The suit states that by January 1998, there were five documented cases of cancer within the group of 15 employees, including three cases of a "rare inflammatory breast cancer." Two of these individuals have since died, while other employees who worked at the office building have suffered respiratory and other problems. According to the suit, the workers were then fired in February "despite previous assurances they could remain at the hospital for the rest of their careers" (Gonzales, San Jose Mercury News, 12/12). The lawsuit seeks "unspecified monetary damages" from the hospital for lost wages and medical expenses (Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/14).
Eden officials "strongly denied" the allegations in the suit, which names the hospital, Eden CEO George Bischalaney and hospital owner Sutter Health as defendants. "We did a number of studies on that building. Any of the health concerns that were raised were taken very seriously. We did analysis of the air quality, radiation leakage ... and the findings were negative," Eden spokesperson Cassandra Phelps said. She also denied the suit's claim that only "minor modifications" were made to the ventilation systems in the office building after the workers complained (San Jose Mercury News, 12/12). Phelps added that the employees were not fired, but instead "offered several options, including other positions, after billing services were contracted to an outside company" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.