Brius accused of retaliating against whistle-blowing administrator

A former nursing home administrator has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Brius Healthcare owner Shlomo Rechnitz, alleging that he was put on probation and later fired after alerting Rechnitz that the facility he ran had been inflating its staffing figures in reports to state regulators.

In an April 3, 2015 email to Rechnitz, Jeff Arsonson, the recently-hired administrator of the California Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Palm Springs, wrote that the facility had been counting nurses working in entirely different departments in the staffing ratios they reported to government agencies.

“This has ‘inflated’ the numbers and we were not close to that in regards to “direct” patient care,” Aronson wrote to Rechnitz, according to court papers.

The facility had reported a staffing ratio of 3.77 direct caregivers per patient day – well above the state requirement of 3.2, according to the complaint.

Just four days later, Aronson received a letter from one of his bosses informing him that he was being placed on probation, citing job performance issues including an increase in approved overtime for staffers, according to the lawsuit.

Aronson’s attorney, Stephen Garcia of the firm Garcia, Artigliere & Medby, wrote in court papers that the letter contained falsehoods that could be used “to later justify future termination.”

Brius, which controls one-in-14 nursing home beds across California, has been hit with multiple recent citations for understaffing its facilities. Earlier this year, state regulators fined the company $20,000 for understaffing the Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Humboldt County and $15,000 for understaffing the San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center in Marin County.

Aronson’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Sept. 26, 2017, suggests that Brius may have knowingly – and unlawfully – inflated staffing ratios in reports to state regulators to satisfy minimum staffing requirements. A copy of the lawsuit is available below.

Three months after being placed on probation, Arsonson was put in charge of a second Brius home: Desert Springs Healthcare and Wellness Center in nearby Indio, according to the lawsuit.

On March 14, 2017, state inspectors issued four Immediate Jeopardy citations against the facility, according to court papers. In his complaint, Aronson claimed that he could not have prevented issuance of the citations because the defendants (including Rechnitz) “mandate that Desert Springs not maintain a sufficient number of staff to decrease costs and increase profits.”

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Although state regulators quickly withdrew the citations, Aronson was terminated on March 27.