Trial begins for CA nursing home investigator suing health department for alleged retaliation

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A unique trial involving a California nursing home evaluator suing the state health department has finally begun in San Diego County Court. The surveyor claims she was forced to close nursing home investigations as retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim.

Rose Espiritu, a health facilities evaluator nurse for the state of California, alleges she was discriminated against and harassed after filing a worker's compensation claim for carpal tunnel syndrome. Espiritu filed a civil lawsuit against the department in 2014. The case, Rose Espiritu vs. California Department of Public Health, finally opened in court Tuesday.

Espiritu argues that her managers did not accommodate her condition, and retaliated against her claim by ordering her to close nursing homes cases and “providing false or inaccurate information” relating to the cases. One of the closed cases involved allegations of poor conduct at a nursing home that resulted in the death of a resident, according to local reports.

Espiritu's lawsuit also claims that she closed the cases under duress and later reported her managers' conduct to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In court documents obtained by local television station 10News, the California Department of Public Health said Espiritu's case is strictly related to her workers' compensation claim. The department also argued that she cannot claim retaliation because no proof exists to show that she reported her managers to CMS.