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Judge Dismisses Claims Against Malibu Rehab Center Made by Former Human Resources Director

A judge dismissed most of more than a dozen claims filed against a Malibu rehabilitation center by its former human resources director, who alleges she was wrongly fired after two months in the job.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Fahey issued his ruling Monday, a week after hearing arguments and taking under submission a motion by attorneys for Passages Malibu to dismiss plaintiff Cynthia Begazo’s entire case.

Begazo’s wrongful termination complaint, filed last Sept. 18, additionally included several claims for retaliation, some of which will remain in the case and others that will not. Her age and disability discrimination allegations also can be taken to trial, Fahey ruled.

In addition to Passages Malibu, the named defendants are Grasshopper House LLC; Passages Silverstrand in Port Hueneme; Passages Malibu co-founders Chris Prentiss and his son, Pax; and Passages COO Marina Mahoney, who was Begazo’s supervisor.

The suit states that Begazo, then 53, told her supervisors that she had leukemia when she was hired in March 2015.

The same month she got the job, Begazo informed Pax Prentiss that some maintenance workers, housekeepers and kitchen servers were not receiving overtime pay or meal or rest breaks, according to the suit.

“Prentiss replied, ‘Don’t worry about it, you have bigger things to worry about,”‘ the suit alleges.

No action was taken by management after Begazo also told them about a “startling number of non-compliance issues” involving training, licensure and physician contacts, the suit alleges.

In April 2015, Mahoney fired a woman and told Begazo she did so because the employee “can’t keep up because she is too old,” according to the suit. The same month, Mahoney fired two more workers and acknowledged one of them was terminated because of his age, the suit alleges.

Begazo claims she told Mahoney that it was illegal to fire employees because they are considered to be too old, but Mahoney replied she could “do whatever she wanted to do” because Passages was an at-will employer.

In April 2015, a patient was found dead in his room with a bag and a trash can over his head and scratch marks on his face, the suit states.

Mahoney spoke to detectives about the patient’s death, but after Begazo insisted that the incident also be reported to the proper civil authorities and the facility’s insurance carrier, Mahoney replied, “I don’t want you reporting any of it” and walked out of the room, the suit alleges.

Mahoney later admitted that Passages did not have “any formal or written procedures for intake, detoxing and the monitoring of patients” and told Begazo to “alter the employee files and falsify information about the patient’s death,” the complaint alleges.

After Begazo refused, Mahoney stopped talking to her, the suit states.

Begazo says she took a week off in early May 2015 after she contracted an infection related to her leukemia. She says she returned to work two months later, but was told the same day that she was being fired.

When Begazo asked why she was being terminated, she was told, “You’re no longer a fit, but your skills and experience are excellent,” her suit alleges.

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