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ARTICLE ID 188714

$________ – EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY – SEXUAL HARASSMENT – WHISTLEBLOWER – SURGICAL ASSISTANT COLLECTS LARGE RETALIATION FOR SEVERAL ALLEGATIONS – LOSS OF WAGES – DAMAGE TO REPUTATION – EMOTIONAL DISTRESS.

U.S.D.C. - Eastern District of California

In this matter, a woman filed suit as a whistleblower for acts of harassment and retaliation suffered at the hands of her former employers. The defendant hospital denied liability and asserted that the firing was for legitimate reasons like overall poor performance.

From ________-________, the plaintiff, 45, was a Cardiac Surgical Physician’s Assistant in the Cardiovascular Operation Department of Sacramento’s Mercy General Hospital. During her two years of employment the plaintiff submitted nearly 20 written complaints regarding patient safety, hospital conditions and treatment of women. The plaintiff alleged in these complaints circumstances including: failure to provide assistant surgeon (as required under: Title XXII Cal. Reg.), unnecessary vein harvest and other injuries to patients, and abusive, retaliatory and crude treatment by a heart surgeon.

The plaintiff was fired on August 7, ________, for alleged misconduct after these repeated complaints. Due to the allegations of the hospital regarding her disciplinary record (the pretext for her firing), she was unable to find work for almost a year, when she was hired at Radiological Associates of Sacramento. That employer provided gynecological surgery assistance to various hospitals, including the CHW’s Mercy San Juan Hospital. She was terminated from her employment after eight months when she was denied hospital privileges by CHW’s privileging committee.

The plaintiff filed suit in the Superior Court of California, Sacramento County Division as a whistleblower for Title VII retaliation, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, defamation, and sexual harassment. The action was later removed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California because of the federal claims brought under Title VII due to the religious exemption for church run hospitals. The plaintiff sought recovery for emotional distress suffered due to actions of the hospital and its staff, lost wages, damage to her professional reputation, and punitive damages. The defendant denied liability.

Trial convened on January 30, ________, with a mistrial declared shortly thereafter on February 2nd. Four days later a second trial convened, which was concluded with this verdict. At trial, the plaintiff brought witnesses and records as evidence to support her allegations of sexual harassment, defamation, retaliation and wrongful termination. The plaintiff asserted that during her employment at the defendant hospital, she endured sexually inappropriate behavior and discussion in and outside of the operating room. One particularly disruptive heart surgeon was accused of sexually inappropriate workplace discussion, including using "I’m horny" as a daily salutation. This behavior was continued despite complaint, according to the plaintiff, and constituted sexual harassment. The plaintiff further alleged she was denied meal breaks in violation of state law.

The defendant claimed that no harassment occurred and the appropriate procedures were followed. However, testimony from the defendant CHW’s Vice President confirmed that she had herself violated the sexual harassment policy by failing to report the conduct of the heart surgeon. Respecting the denial of meal breaks, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff was exempt from compliance and/or signed a waiver, which they were unable to produce.

Respecting the claims of retaliation, the defense claimed to only have received some of the alleged complaints. The defendant stated that the plaintiff was not a team player, was late for and unavailable during work, and was generally a poor employee, and that this was the reason for her termination. The plaintiff denied the allegations of poor work performance, but cited the accusations and treatment as injurious to her in subsequent attempts to find employment elsewhere.After 11 days of trial, the jury deliberated for three days before a unanimous verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. The jury awarded Ani C. ________, including $42.7 million in compensatory damages and $________ million in punitives.

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