A federal jury awarded a physician’s assistant $168 million in damages because of the hostile work environment that she says she endured at Mercy General Hospital, a Sacramento hospital. The Plaintiff, Ani Chopourian, alleges that she was also repeatedly sexually harassed during the two years she worked at the hospital as a cardiac surgeon’s assistant. She was dismissed in 2008 and her employment terminated, on grounds of misconduct. Ms. Chopourian strongly denied any misconduct on her part. She said that she lost count of the number of complaints that she filed with Human Resources, but said there were at least 18. The verdict included $125 million in punitive damages.
During the trial, hospital managers alleged that it was in fact Ms. Chopourian who was guilty of professional misconduct. They claimed that was the reason she was fired. They also tried to deny her unemployment benefits. Ms. Chopourian was fired a week after she documented the abuse and delivered a formal complaint to the Human Resources Department at the hospital.
During the three-week trial, a number of witnesses depicted a culture of vulgarity and arrogance that they said humiliated female employees and put patients at risk. It should be noted that Mercy General is one of 40 hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona operated by Catholic Healthcare West – now Dignity Health – employing some 7,000 people. Hopefully, the bosses will have learned a valuable lesson from this case.
Source: The Sacramento Bee
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