A Sacramento jury in federal court has awarded more than $167 million to Ani Chopourian, who alleged that her former employer, Dignity Health (formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West), sexually harassed her and illegally retaliated against her for repeatedly complaining about patient and employee safety, abuse against women, and unsafe hospital conditions.
In this case, the jury heard evidence that during the plaintiff’s employment with the hospital, she made approximately 18 written complaints to hospital management concerning dangerous hospital conditions, including unnecessary harms to patients such as needlessly broken ribs and torn veins, employee exhaustion, and verbal abuse directed toward female employees. The plaintiff also presented evidence that male employees made crude, unwelcome sexual advances to female employees on a daily basis, including evidence that one prominent surgeon’s daily salutation was “I’m horny” and that he divulged the most intimate details of his sexual attraction to various female coworkers and celebrities. The hospital had branded the plaintiff, who was a high school valedictorian and had undergraduate and Masters degrees from UCLA and a Masters from the Yale School of Medicine, as a “prima donna” and “poor team player” because of her complaints. The hospital received plaintiff’s last complaint less than one week before they fired her.
California Health and Safety Code Section 1278.5 aims to encourage the reporting of unsafe patient care and conditions and prohibits health care facilities from discriminating or retaliating against any employee who has “[p]resented a grievance, complaint, or report to the facility, to an entity or agency responsible for accrediting or evaluating the facility, or the medical staff of the facility, or to any other governmental entity’ as well as any employee who has “initiated, participated, or cooperated in an investigation or administrative proceeding related to, the quality of care, services, or conditions at the facility that is carried out by an entity or agency responsible for accrediting or evaluating the facility or its medical staff, or governmental entity.”
The jury found that the defendant violated Section 1278.5 when it fired the plaintiff shortly after she complained about the unsafe conditions at the hospital, and also found for the plaintiff on her claims for sexual harassment, Title VII retaliation, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, intentional interference with economic advantage, defamation, and missed meal and rest breaks.
Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters. Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.