Randhawa v. Hanford Cmty. Hosp., F081846

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSMITH, J.
PartiesJOGINDER SINGH RANDHAWA, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. HANFORD COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, Defendant and Respondent.
Docket NumberF081846
Decision Date27 September 2022

JOGINDER SINGH RANDHAWA, Plaintiff and Appellant,

HANFORD COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, Defendant and Respondent.


California Court of Appeals, Fifth District

September 27, 2022


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Kings County, No. 19C0001, Kathy Ciuffini, Judge.

Lyon Law and Geoffrey C. Lyon for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Seyfarth Shaw and Kiran A. Seldon; Vedder Price and Candice T. Zee for Defendant and Respondent.




Plaintiff Joginder Singh Randhawa appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of defendant Hanford Community Hospital dba Hanford Community Medical Center aka Adventist Health Hanford (AHH). We affirm the judgment.


I. Brief Overview

Randhawa was employed by AHH as a microbiologist. On November 20, 2018, AHH terminated Randhawa's employment. According to AHH, Randhawa's employment was terminated for violating privacy and confidentiality policies of AHH, as well as various state and federal laws including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).[1] At the time his employment was terminated, Randhawa was on medical leave for anxiety disorder, stress and other ailments due to an alleged "hostile work environment" created by Randhawa's supervisor and AHH management. His employment was terminated one week before his scheduled return to work from his medical leave.

The termination notice Randhawa received stated, in part: "As you [i.e., Randhawa] are aware, on 08/31/2018, you admitted during your deposition that you copied various medical records and other documents in both paper and electronic format, removed these copied records from [AHH's] premises, and then copied these records and documents onto your home personal computer which is available to other people.[2] You also testified you e-mailed documents containing protected health information [PHI] to yourself.[3]"


Randhawa filed suit against AHH alleging numerous claims of harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. AHH moved for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication of Randhawa's claims. The trial court granted AHH's motion, and summary judgment in favor of AHH and against Randhawa was entered. This appeal followed.

II. Procedural Background

On January 3, 2019, after receiving right to sue letters from the Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Randhawa filed his complaint in this matter alleging 11 causes of action against AHH for (1) whistleblower retaliation (Lab. Code, §§ 1102.5 & 1102.6); (2) disability discrimination (Gov. Code, § 12940, subd. (a)); (3) failure to engage in the interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations for his disability (Gov. Code, § 12940, subd. (n)); (4) failure to reasonably accommodate his disability (Gov. Code, § 12940, subd. (m)); (5) medical leave retaliation (Gov. Code, § 12945.2); (6) medical leave discrimination (Gov. Code, § 12945.2); (7) age discrimination (Gov. Code, § 12940); (8) race discrimination (Gov. Code, § 12940); (9) retaliation for opposing FEHA[4] violations (Gov. Code, § 12900, et seq.; § 12940, subd. (h); (10) failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation (Gov. Code, § 12940, subds. (j) & (k); and (11) wrongful termination in violation of public policy.


On March 13, 2019, AHH answered Randhawa's complaint. AHH generally denied all material allegations of the complaint and asserted 20 affirmative defenses including, without limitation, a statute of limitations defense, and defenses based on AHH's contention that it had a legitimate business reason for taking adverse employment actions against Randhawa, and that it would have made the same decisions regarding those adverse employment actions in the event Randhawa is able to demonstrate a mixed motive for AHH's decisions.

On December 31, 2019, AHH filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication of each of Randhawa's 11 causes of action and Randhawa's associated claims for punitive damages. On March 9, 2020, AHH requested that its motion be removed from the trial court's calendar due to the inadvertent omission of certain exhibits in support of the motion. On March 11, 2020, AHH refiled its motion. Randhawa filed his opposition on May 12, 2020, and AHH filed its reply on May 20, 2020.

An initial hearing on AHH's motion was held on May 26, 2020, and the trial court took the matter under submission. A further hearing was held on July 23, 2020, after the parties and court agreed to allow further briefing. Randhawa provided supplemental briefing concerning his contention that AHH had a "mixed motive" for terminating Randhawa's employment, and AHH filed a supplemental brief in opposition.

On July 23, 2020, the court adopted its tentative ruling and granted AHH's motion for summary judgment. On September 1, 2020, judgment was entered in AHH's favor and against Randhawa.

Notice of entry of the judgment was filed and served on September 28, 2020. Randhawa timely appealed on October 7, 2020.

III. Factual Background

Randhawa was hired by AHH in 1997, at age 60, to work as a microbiologist in AHH's microbiology laboratory. At the time of his hiring, Randhawa had close to 20


years' experience as a microbiologist. In February of 2009, Randhawa resigned from AHH to work closer to home. A few months later, Randhawa was rehired by AHH as a part-time employee and, by the end of 2009, had resumed full-time employment with AHH. Randhawa's employment was at-will.

Randhawa's job duties included analyzing laboratory cultures grown from blood and other bodily fluid specimens obtained from medical patients, identifying pathogens, and testing the cultures to determine their reaction to various antibiotics so that patients could receive proper treatment.

A. History of Discipline, Job Performance Assessments, and Other Events Relevant to Randhawa's Claims

1. September 25, 2009, Written Warning

On September 25, 2009, AHH issued Randhawa a written warning for non-compliance with AHH's PPE[5] policy (i.e., failure to wear gloves while working in the microbiology laboratory) and for arguing with a surveyor over the policy.[6]

2. AHH Hires Randhawa's Supervisor

In or around 2013, AHH hired Bill Fleming as a microbiology lab coordinator. Fleming oversaw Randhawa's work in the laboratory. Randhawa stated he was never notified of the open position and the position was not posted on AHH's bulletin board. Randhawa further stated that from early 2013 until his employment was terminated, he noticed Fleming making "errors and false entries" in the lab; that "Fleming's way of reporting results was not acceptable by lab standards and created a dangerous situation


where doctors could be misled if it went unchecked[; and that he] informed Nina Cano …, the lab director [of the situation]."

3. December 2014/January 2015 Events

In or around December 2014 through January 2015,[7] Randhawa notified a doctor that contaminants had been found in a culture grown from specimens taken from the doctor's patient. According to Randhawa, he and the doctor decided additional testing was not required. Fleming asked Randhawa to do a "blood panel" on the culture but Randhawa told him it was not necessary. According to Randhawa, Fleming stated, "You stubborn Indian, do your job."

Randhawa said he complained of the "racially harassing comment" to Cano, but Cano took no further action. Randhawa complied with Fleming's requests to perform the additional testing. Fleming also performed the same tests. The results of the tests did not match. Randhawa performed the tests two additional times but could not replicate Fleming's results.

Cano discussed the incident in her declaration in support of AHH's motion. She stated Randhawa came to her "incredibly upset because Mr. Fleming called him stubborn." She said Randhawa made no mention of Fleming calling him a stubborn "Indian."[8] To corroborate her recollection, Cano produced a handwritten statement from


Randhawa complaining about the incident. The handwritten statement was written approximately two years after the alleged incident. In it, Randhawa wrote, "[Fleming] used very bad language and said don't be stub[born] and do it. No one ever used this kind of language and he[,] being Lab Coordinator[,] should know how to talk." Cano contends she counseled Fleming "about the proper language to use at work" and "told him that [his] was not the correct language to use."

Randhawa reported the differing test results to the Lab Director, Dr. Nicholas Edward Reiver. According to Randhawa, Dr. Reiver agreed with Randhawa that "the findings were faked" and recommended Randhawa notify Cano and Director Shannon Powers. Thereafter, Randhawa met with Cano, Powers, and Reiver to discuss what Randhawa described as "falsified and altered reports" by Fleming. According to Randhawa, Powers was upset by the information and considered closing the microbiology lab. Cano said she would hold regular meetings to discuss the issues. Randhawa tried to give Cano the "incorrect culture reports" but she did not take them.

Dr. Reiver was deposed but no testimony was provided in which Dr. Reiver described Fleming's test results as falsified or faked. When asked whether he had heard Randhawa "complain about errors, or false or phantom entries" made by Fleming, Dr. Reiver responded, "I was aware of complaints from Mr. Randhawa about Mr. Fleming in general." When asked about the complaints, Dr. Reiver stated, "I'm not sure of details now, but they had differences in the-in a broad sense, there were differences in the way they approached the working up of samples, of microbiology samples."

Dr. Reiver asked Cano to investigate Randhawa's claims. When asked what findings were made,...

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