Kaiser Permanente Accused of Mishandling Sexual Harassment Claims

New documents filed in a lawsuit against the hospital giant allege Kaiser was aware of multiple sexual harassment claims against an employee and still allowed him to work with female patients for years.

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Jane Doe says, to this day, she can’t drive by Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices in Union City.  

The grey, unassuming building on Whipple Road reminds her of a routine doctor’s appointment there in 2017 and the Kaiser medical aide who, during that visit, turned into a sexual predator. Doe is a sexual assault victim, so NBC Bay Area is not using her real name.

“He started asking me about my ring, if I was engaged … then he locked the door,” she told NBC Bay Area in Spanish in her first television interview since the attack. 

“When I went to grab my purse, he came up from behind and held my hand … He made me touch his private part.”

Former Kaiser Nurse Efrain Castanon pictured here in a police mug shot

The police report shows Doe reported the attack on Jan. 27, 2017, which was two days after the incident. She told police she was scared to report the assault immediately because her attacker, Efrain Castanon, had access to her private medical records. But her brother convinced her to go to police, she said. 

Kaiser terminated Castanon about two weeks later on February 15, 2017. He was charged and later convicted of felony sexual battery against Jane Doe in 2018.

New court documents filed in an ongoing civil lawsuit against Kaiser show Jane Doe may not have been Castanon’s first victim.

The filings detail multiple accusations that Kaiser knew Castanon sexually harassed female patients and fellow employees, but Kaiser allowed him to keep working. The lawsuit alleges Kaiser had information that Castanon had a “long list of victims” and that he “viewed nurse-themed porn on his work computer.”

The civil lawsuit against Kaiser alleges Castanon had sexually harassed or assaulted patients before Jane Doe.

Castanon may have assaulted or harassed at least six additional victims prior to Jane Doe while working at Kaiser, according to the lawsuit.

In 2013, a patient said she told Kaiser Castanon had inappropriately cupped her breast and touched other parts of her body during an exam. As a medical aide he was only authorized to perform basic patient care, such as administer medication or process paperwork.

In 2015, another Kaiser patient said Castanon told her “he wanted to stay in the room and watch her undress.” She reported him and “Kaiser concluded Castnanon’s behavior was inappropriate,” but he continued to work with female patients. In 2016, just one month before Jane Doe’s attack, Castanon was accused of sexual battery. It’s unclear if the incident involved a patient. A misdemeanor charge stemming from the incident was dismissed as part of his plea deal in Jane Doe’s case.

The civil suit claims Castanon had watched "nurse-themed" pornography on his work computer.

NBC Bay Area has obtained police body camera video showing Castanon’s supervisor, Jane Doe’s former doctor, tell an officer she was unaware of any serious complaints against Castanon. The footage was recorded shortly after Jane Doe’s attack.

“I have not heard of any formal reports of unusual behavior,” she responded. “There was one patient who said ‘You, know I feel uncomfortable with male medical assistants.’ And I said ‘Well, he’s my main medical assistant. If you don’t feel comfortable with a male medical assistant you can always ask for a female medical assistant’…I trust [Castanon] fully with a patient.”

NBC Bay Area reached out to this doctor for comment on her past remarks. She did not provide a response.

“When there’s no coordination and there’s no one tracking silo to silo, department to department, things fall through the cracks,” sexual assault attorney Micha Star Liberty with Liberty Law said. Liberty represents Doe in the ongoing civil case.

Kaiser Permanente declined multiple requests for an on-camera interview by the Investigative Unit. Instead, a hospital spokesperson sent a statement from Sheila Gilson, RN, Senior VP and Area Manager for Kaiser Permanente.

“The sexual assault that occurred in 2017 should never have happened. We are so deeply sorry and apologize to Ms. ‘Doe’ for what she has gone through,” Gilson wrote. “When it happened, we acted quickly to terminate the employee and cooperated fully with law enforcement. Our goal is to prevent such things from ever happening in the first place, Gilson continued. “And we didn’t do that this time. We should have recognized behaviors earlier and acted sooner.”

Click here to read Kaiser's full statement on Castanon

Gilson said the hospital is doing more to train managers on how to recognize early behaviors but did not provide specifics. When asked if Kaiser has seen a decrease in sexual assault and harassment complaints following the new protocols, a spokesman said it was a legal matter and could not give additional information. 

Liberty argued Kaiser should have terminated Castanon immediately, calling the statement “self-serving.”

“Kaiser does not follow its own policies, does not train its employees properly, does not thoroughly investigate or document complaints of sexual assault, misconduct, or harassment. These failures continue to this very day,” Liberty told NBC Bay Area.

The civil trial against Kaiser is scheduled for November. Castanon recently completed a three-year prison sentence and must register as a sex offender for life. Castanon did not respond to NBC Bay Area’s requests for comment.

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