Wellmark vendor settles discrimination suit
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s pharmacy benefits manager has agreed to pay $37,500 to a woman who said she was fired after telling a supervisor that she was pregnant.
Catalyst RX Inc., which has been under contract with Wellmark since 2006, offered the payment to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court in Des Moines. Wellmark, which is Catalyst’s largest client, was not a defendant in the suit.
Rachel Schantz, who now lives in Florida, was hired in August 2007 to work as a client services coordinator for Catalyst. After training in Des Moines, she was to work out of Wellmark’s office in Cedar Rapids.
The plan to place Catalyst employees in Wellmark offices was part of the insurer’s goal to expand its regional approach to health care by having its key vendors place staff who would serve on “virtual clinical teams” in Wellmark facilities in Cedar Rapids and Sioux Falls, S.D., according to court documents.
An attorney for Catalyst could not be reached for comment.
During an interview with Catalyst in August 2007 and again after starting work in September 2007, Schantz did not tell supervisors that she was pregnant and expecting her first child in February 2008.
In late September 2007, while still serving a 90-day probationary period, Schantz told her immediate supervisor that she was pregnant, according to court documents. While on probation, Schantz was to acquire skills necessary for a job for which she had little experience.
A month later, Catalyst had determined that Schantz was not ready to take on her new position in Cedar Rapids, needing to improve skills in basic client services, preparation of status briefs and understanding a Catalyst reporting system.
She was told that her performance would be evaluated on a week-to-week basis, according to court documents.
On Oct. 29, 2007, Catalyst’s director of client services met with Schantz and offered her another position with the company, one that did not involve direct contact with clients. Also during the meeting, Schantz told the director, Kimberly Altman, that she was pregnant.
According to Schantz, Altman replied, “I would not have hired you for this position if I would have known you were pregnant.”
That comment is in dispute, according to court records. However, Altman and Schantz’s supervisor discussed firing her if she would not accept another position.
Altman was advised by Catalyst’s human resources department that she should document Schantz’s shortcomings in her preferred job “due to the sensitivity around (her) pregnancy.”
On Nov. 15, 2007, Schantz was fired after turning down an alternative position as a data analyst. The lawsuit alleging discrimination was filed in November 2009.
Catalyst offered the settlement last month after Judge Ronald Longstaff denied its motion for a summary judgment that would have prevented the case from going to trial.
In his ruling, Longstaff said Altman’s statement “that she would not have hired Schantz for the position if she would have known that Schantz was pregnant, warrants an inference of discriminatory attitude sufficient to permit a fact finder to conclude that pregnancy was a motivating factor” in her firing.