Elder care lawyer Jennifer Pazsala is one of the many lawyers that claims she was treated well by her employer, the Department of Health, in the days leading up to her retirement.
But her claims are now under scrutiny, after a former nurse who worked for the Department told a federal court that she was fired after reporting her concerns about the department’s treatment of her patients.
The court’s decision to dismiss the case against Pazsdahl could pave the way for the department to be able to pursue other claims in its lawsuit against her, which is expected to reach the court’s doorstep in March.
Pazsias attorney, who is not named in the court document, has filed an amicus brief with the court arguing that the Department has violated the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.
“I was a part of the team that did everything we could to get you the best care possible,” said Pazscal.
“But we never thought you would be treated like that.”
The woman, identified only as “Ms. P,” was a nurse in the department in 2014, when the department announced plans to expand the number of physicians on its rolls to allow it to expand access to primary care and community health clinics.
A few weeks before Pazschella began working at the department, she told her supervisor about concerns about “a large number of new physicians and primary care providers who are not following ACA standards,” according to the court documents.
She said she was given an opportunity to ask for additional resources, including “referral to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, but she did not ask for the extra resources.”
Pazspal said she then went to the department for a training session and learned that she would be reassigned to a less senior position within the department.
“That’s when I realized I wasn’t the only one who was feeling mistreated,” said the woman, who has been identified only by her first name, Jennifer.
“And I was also aware of other complaints about this same situation.”
According to the documents, Paz’s supervisor “believed that Ms. P was a senior employee and was acting out of fear for her safety, which she did.”
Pazas lawyer, who represents the department and is also named in Pazschal’s case, says she was not fired for complaining about the conditions of care, but for asking for a referral to HHS.
“Ms P’s concerns were well founded, but that was the point, she was simply expressing them to her supervisor, and he responded by terminating her employment and taking her to the hospital for medical treatment,” Pazsa said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
“When Ms P was told that she had been terminated because she had raised her concerns, she immediately sought the appropriate medical care, which resulted in her termination.”
The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Paza in federal court in October, seeking a court order to force the department into a compliance with the ACA and other federal law, which require that employers offer benefits to employees at least 60 percent of their pay.
The department argues that the case is a legal “distraction” from its “urgent obligation” to comply with the law, and is seeking to compel the court to order the department “to act to remedy the violations” by June 2, 2019.
Paza, a former member of the New York City Police Department, was working as a nursing aide when she started a dispute with her employer in February, and it escalated into a full-blown legal battle, according to Pazsbai.
In the court papers, Paza alleges that her employer fired her because she questioned the health care standards in the agency and called attention to the poor treatment of the patients in the facility.
Puzsala said she has worked for four years for the New Jersey-based firm, which represents about 300 nursing home patients, but has been laid off six times since her retirement in 2016.
She was unable to find a job after leaving the nursing home in 2015.
She is now suing the department on behalf of the nursing staff, who she claims were treated “without any respect” by the department during the years she worked there.
“She is seeking a remedy to the termination of her employment,” said her lawyer, Mark Lauterbach.
“The fact that the court was able to dismiss her lawsuit shows that the department has no intention of doing the right thing.”
A spokeswoman for the city of New York declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the health department, which owns the hospital where Paz is suing, declined to respond to questions.
Piza’s lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf the city and the nursing homes that she worked for, including the state, as well as against the department as a whole.
“Our position is that it was never a deliberate decision to fire her and to make a point about how the health system operates,” said attorney Brian Ritt