This Bad Boss Tracked Employees on Her Smartphone — and Punished Any Naysayers
Teecha Chamblee never had panic attacks before she was hired as the clinic manager at Inland Behavioral and Health Services (IBHS) — but then, she had never worked for Temetry Lindsey before.
For 30 years now, Ms. Lindsey has run the non-profit community clinic in San Bernardino, Calif. As painted in a series of lawsuits filed by former employees, including Ms. Chamblee, she is a dictatorial CEO who hires family members, charges poor patients too much, permits lavish narcotics handouts, and freezes out — or fires — anyone who crosses her.
According to testimony, Ms. Lindsey tracks employees' movements on her smartphone, to which she has piped video feeds from cameras all over IBHS facilities. She allowed one supervisor to deprive "lazy" clinic employees of desks and chairs, forcing them to kneel as they typed. And she used the non-profit's money to buy herself a BMW X5, ostensibly at the request of her board of directors, a hand-picked group that includes her hairdresser.
Ms. Chamblee said she tried to challenge the worst practices at IBHS, including some evident faking of patient data. But for her troubles — which included a run-in with Ms. Lindsey's disruptive daughter, who was on the non-profit's payroll — she was banished from the executive suite and shut out of key meetings. Ultimately she had no choice but to quit.
"I felt like I was in a cult," Ms. Chamblee said in a deposition. "I don't do cults."
Temetry Lindsey is our latest Bad Boss of the Month.
Ms. Chamblee quickly found another job. In July 2016 a California state jury awarded her $50,000 in damages from IBHS, saying that she was effectively fired for speaking up, and that IBHS acted with "malice, fraud or oppression."
In court documents, Ms. Chamblee described her time at the clinic as "hell." Besides having her first-ever panic attack, she gained a lot of weight under the stress of being shunned by Ms. Lindsey, her direct supervisor.
Among other problems at IBHS, Ms. Chamblee had flagged the clinic's improper practice of including food-stamp payments in its calculation of poor patients' income, which allowed IBHS to charge higher fees. Ms. Lindsey listened to her concern, but replied that nothing would change.
Ms. Chamblee also dealt with issues caused by the IBHS medical director, Donald Underwood, who was hired by Ms. Lindsey despite prior suspensions in five other states for problems including overprescription of narcotics, malpractice, and fraud. In New York, by his own account, he was suspended for allowing his wife, who is not a physician, to implant synthetic fiber in patients' scalps in imitation of "authentic hair."
At IBHS, Ms. Chamblee testified, Dr. Underwood was in heavy demand as the only physician willing to prescribe promethazine with codeine, a narcotic cough syrup that's often mixed with soda and candy to make a street cocktail known as "sizzurp" or "purple drank."
"Most of the patients came to see him," said Ms. Chamblee, "because he — well, you know … he gave out meds."
Other IBHS personnel warned about Dr. Underwood. Tiffany Hill, a physician at the clinic, sent an e-mail to Ms. Lindsey saying that Dr. Underwood’s prescriptions "scared" her, noting that one patient had received scripts for a virtual pharmacy of pills, including 485 hydrocodone, 830 Tramadol, 330 Xanax, and 270 Valium. Dr. Hill and another IBHS employee were fired after making such complaints, and later settled a joint lawsuit they filed against the clinic.
According to Ms. Chamblee, the only survivors at IBHS are those who don’t challenge Ms. Lindsey or her protectees, who include family members and Dr. Underwood. "Whatever she said, goes," said Ms. Chamblee. "Nobody contested or questioned anything, even if they knew better." Behind her back, however, disgruntled workers called her "the blue-eyed devil," Ms. Chamblee testified. (Ms. Lindsey has striking blue eyes.)
Even longtime employees could be targets for the CEO. Barbette "Bobbie" Barton, who was Ms. Lindsey’s personal assistant for 13 years, claimed in court documents that Ms. Lindsey was abusive and threatened to fire her, for instance, if she didn’t get her "a** down to the store to pick up snacks" for a meeting.
Ms. Lindsey also was demeaning of Hispanic people, calling them "wetbacks" and "beaners" in front of Ms. Barton, whose daughter-in-law and grandchildren are Hispanic.
Like Ms. Chamblee, Ms. Barton became hobbled by the stress of working for Ms. Lindsey. She filed a workers' compensation claim to take time off — but when she returned, she said, she was stripped of all duties, moved to a different location, and deprived of a computer and telephone. For several weeks, she could do little more than make copies.
Ms. Barton also filed suit against IBHS, and reached a settlement.
Ms. Chamblee herself was frozen out for a variety of reasons. Ms.Lindsey sent security to confiscate her key to the executive suite, for instance, after she raised concerns that IBHS wasn't complying with state and federal regulations — and that data submitted in applications for government funding didn't match IBHS records.
Ms. Lindsey seemed just as upset, however, when Ms. Chamblee passed along complaints about the workplace antics of Samantha Dotson, the CEO's unruly daughter.
Ms. Dotson reported to Ms. Chamblee, but "came and left whenever she wanted" and dressed and behaved unprofessionally. "She would do little stupid things like take people's lunches, hide people's purses," testified Ms. Chamblee. "She'd throw things across the cubicles. I couldn't go and tell her to stop … because that's the boss' daughter."
One of Ms. Dotson's pranks contributed to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by another employee, which was resolved out of court.
Ms. Lindsey's mother also worked at IBHS, and the CEO's son became pharmacy supervisor, with access to medications, although former employees have challenged his qualifications in court filings.
Ms. Chamblee finally quit under pressure from her boss, who stopped replying to e-mails and declined to give her work assignments. "I just couldn't take it," said Ms. Chamblee, a mother of three who was seeing a doctor for a worsening health condition. "I don't ever want to see [Ms. Lindsey] again, and even talking about her sometimes makes me sick."
Like many former IBHS employees, Ms. Chamblee was represented in her case by Tristan Pelayes, a local attorney and former deputy sheriff who has been dogged in pursuing Ms. Lindsey.
Mr. Pelayes' next IBHS case, representing Anais Parsaeian, a former nurse at the clinic, may reach trial in 2017. He says he has more lined up after that.
» Read Ms. Chamblee's complaint
The Employment Law Group® law firm was not involved in Chamblee v. Inland Behavioral and Health Services, Inc.. We select "Bad Boss" cases to illustrate the continuing relevance of employee protection laws for our newsletter's audience, which includes attorneys and former TELG clients.