Lawsuit Filed: Nursing Home Administrator Fired After Blowing Whistle
Palm Springs, Calif. — Shlomo Rechnitz, through a cast moray of partnerships and corporations, is reported to be the largest operator of skilled nursing facilities in the State of California. In December of 2014, Mr. Rechnitz personally involved himself and hired Jeffrey Aronson as an administrator of one of those facilities, California Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (CNRC). In doing so, Mr. Rechnitz negotiated an agreement with Mr. Aronson that Aronson could not, and would not, be terminated absent very specific reasons for a period of five years. In July 2015, Aronson was also hired as the administrator for Desert Springs Healthcare & Wellness Center. Over the course of his employment, Aronson became aware of unlawful behavior at the facilities, including false staffing assertions which directly and adversely affected the delivery of care to elderly and infirm adults. In an act of bravery, Mr. Aronson blew the whistle on violations of regulations and law at some of Rechnitz’s healthcare facilities, including, but not limited to unlawful and fraudulent reporting of inflated nursing staff ratios and unlawful failure to pay their employees overtime compensation. A lawsuit filed by Mr. Aronson alleges that in response to Mr. Aronson’s exposition of unlawful behavior on the part of the facilities, on March 27, 2017 that Aronson was wrongfully terminated prior to the expiration of the employment term of five years, and basically to shut him up from telling the truth and protecting elder and infirm citizens of the State of California from the inevitable injuries which occur at facilities which understaff in violation of law.
Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Shlomo Rechnitz, Bruis Management, Rockport Administrative Services, California Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Indio Healthcare and Wellness Center for whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination and breach of contract.
“Under this employment agreement, the defendants had no right to terminate Jeffrey at will or without cause,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “We allege clearly in the Complaint that Jeffrey was terminated as a retaliatory measure for his whistleblowing as to unlawful behavior which endangered the health and safety of elder and infirm citizens of this State. Behavior which cheats elder and infirm adults out of the care they require and deserve is shameful behavior and to allow an employer to threaten silence by unlawful termination when such behavior is exposed is equally shameful.”
Allegations and Background
According to the lawsuit, Rechnitz hired Aronson as the administrator of CNRC in late December 2014. Prior to Aronson’s employment, Aronson signed an offer letter which noted that he could not be terminated for a period of five years after his hire date, except for good cause.
On April 3, 2015, the lawsuit states that Aronson emailed Rechnitz, alerting him of the fraudulent reporting of inflated nursing staff ratios in his facilities to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, California Department of Health, California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and other government agencies. The complaint states that the email also informed Rechnitz that the labor hour reports from Rockport Administrative Services for CNRC were not accurate, and instead were unlawfully inflated to reflect non-direct caregiver hours.
On July 1, 2015, it’s alleged that Aronson also became administrator of Desert Springs Healthcare & Wellness Center and thereafter, served as the administrator of both CNRC and Desert Springs until his termination. Shortly after on August 31, 2015, Aronson allegedly complained to his superiors of the defendants’ unlawful failure to pay their employees overtime compensation, stating that Rockport Administrative Services was not paying overtime for any hours worked on the PM shift after midnight due to the hours falling on a new day.
On March 14, 2017, it’s alleged that the state began to conduct a survey of Desert Springs, which resulted in the state issuing four Immediate Jeopardy (IJ) citations to the facility that Aronson could not have prevented due to the defendants’ complete control over the level of staffing; however, Aronson almost immediately proved to the state surveyors that the four IJ citations were not warranted and should be lifted, and the state lifted two of the citations on March 20, 2017 and lifted the other two on March 23, 2017.
The lawsuit states that Aronson was terminated on March 27, 2017. Prior to terminating him, and as pretense for their retaliatory and discriminatory conduct, the defendants allegedly manufactured a false list of Aronson’s work performance deficiencies, falsely noting Aronson’s insubordination and lack of leadership skills.
Adding insult to injury, on top of wrongfully terminating Aronson, the defendants also provided Aronson with a bad check upon his termination. On April 6, 2017, the lawsuit states Aronson received notice from his bank that the check the defendants issued to him was “Not Authorized” and therefore Aronson’s bank subtracted the funds from Aronson’s account and charged Aronson a returned check fee.