Health Insurance Companies Remove Remote Work Litigation to Federal Court

Plaintiff Loretta Estevez has filed suit against her former employers, defendants The Anthem Companies, Inc. (Anthem) and Beacon Health Options of California, Inc. (Beacon Health Options) in the County of Orange Court. The latter defendant was acquired by the former in the fall of 2020. The case was originally filed in Orange County, Calif. Superior Court but has since been removed to federal court.

Estevez claims that when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the defendants did not reimburse her for her cell phone usage, despite her cell phone being required to log in to her virtual private network (VPN) on her computer since she was working remotely. She adds that she has been unable to take her full 30-minute lunch break since the pandemic began. Because the defendants’ system takes a while to upload, she was consistently forced to end her meal period early to allow time for that.

The plaintiff also had to report earlier in the morning due to the slowness of the defendants’ system. Despite reporting the numerous discrepancies to management, the complaint maintains that “nothing was done to remedy the situation nor was the Plaintiff provided any premium pay for the interrupted meal periods or additional time for hours worked.”

Estevez was also never provided any pay for hours she worked in addition to the usual 8, according to her complaint. She describes that it was never even recorded on the timesheet. When questioning her manager about it, she purportedly replied that “she should be grateful to have a job during the pandemic.” Her previously approved leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) for her serious health condition was later denied by her managers, despite the fact that she submitted them well in advance, the complaint said. Most recently, she described an instance in which she was not permitted to change a medical appointment and her co-workers informed her that her managers were later questioning the veracity of her illness and mocking her.

In May of this year, Estevez resigned from her position due to ongoing “mistreatment and denial of her CFRA leave.” The complaint cites five separate violations of the California Labor Code, a violation of the California Family Rights Act, and lastly retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Estevez is seeking general, special, and punitive damages, pre-judgement interest, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed necessary by the court. Both Anthem and Beacon Health Options have denied all the claims made thus far by the plaintiff through fourteen separate defenses.

The plaintiff is represented by Buchsbaum Haag, while the defendants are represented by Seyfarth Shaw, LLP.