Orange County

Worker Sues, Says Employer Said to Interact With Public During Coronvirus Outbreak

The plaintiff said her former employer told her to continue interacting with the general public even after counties mandated that nonessential employees should work from home.

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An insurance fraud investigator is suing her former employer, alleging she was ordered to work in conditions that put her at risk of contracting the coronavirus and then was fired in March when she complained.

Brittany Nicole Noh's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Fraud Fighters Inc. alleges wrongful termination and various violations of the state labor code. She seeks unspecified damages in the complaint filed Friday.

A Fraud Fighters representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

Noh believed that management's alleged orders to keep working in the field and interact with the public would, if followed, subject Noh, her co-workers and others to serious physical harm or death, the suit states.

Fraud Fighters' decision to fire the plaintiff "devastated Ms. Noh, who continues to suffer and has lost a job that she cared deeply for," the suit states.

Noh was hired by the company last July and began working as a rapid response investigator, the suit states. The Irvine-based firm primarily serves insurance companies and employers in workers' compensation cases, employer liability, disability claims and employee leave requests.

Fraud Fighters services include investigating and surveilling employees in public and on social media to gather evidence debunking employees' injury claims, according to the suit.

Noh often worked from home in Los Angeles, researching online and drafting investigative reports and at other times she looked into claims at Reliant Urgent Care in Los Angeles, where she interacted with doctors, medical personnel and the general public, according to her suit.

Initially, Fraud Fighters CEO and president Todd Montgomery Gullett praised Noh for her work and her salary was increased by $7,000 annually to reward her, according to the complaint. Noh continued reporting to work and fulfilling her duties even after the global COVID-19 outbreak began spreading to California, the suit states.

In March, the county of Los Angeles Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Officer mandated that businesses and entities establish social distancing guidelines and further ordered that there be no public gatherings and that nonessential employees remain in their homes rather than in offices, the suit states.

Noh did not qualify as an employee whose services were needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, the suit states. However, Gullett sent internal emails in March that said employees would continue operating in surveillance activities, the suit states.

When Noh learned of the Los Angeles and Orange County orders, she told Gullett that she would be exposed to extreme danger if forced to continue investigation operations in the general public, in particular at Reliant Urgent Care, where people infected with COVID-19 likely would be treated, the suit states.

Most of the people who Noh interviewed at Reliant Urgent Care worked at Los Angeles International Airport, which reported March 18 that about nine LAX employees were infected with COVID-19.

"Ms. Noh also feared that such operations would violate applicable rules, laws, orders and regulations," the suit states.

But Fraud Fighters management told Noh to continue working in the field and at Reliant Urgent care so long as she was not infected, according to the suit.

"Gullett further warned that if Ms. Noh refused to work among the general public, then she would no longer receive pay," the suit states.

Noh, offering to work remotely, again reiterated her concerns that investigating urgent care facilities and operating among the general public would violate applicable local rules and jeopardize her safety and that of others, the suit states.

In response, Gullett told Noh to stop working and that she would be "going without pay," the suit states. She also was told to train her replacement, according to the suit.

Gullett sent a subsequent email to Noh belittling her and accusing her of insubordination while also yelling at her and calling her "ignorant," the suit states.

On March 23, Noh again asked to work remotely out of fear for her own safety and those with whom she dealt in the field, the suit states. Management did not reply and instead froze her access to emails and to internal accounts, the suit states. The next day, she was fired, the suit alleges.

Noh offered to work part-time to try to keep her job, but her request was denied, the suit states.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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