A federal jury in Sacramento unanimously awarded $168 million in damages and lost wages to a physician assistant for various claims lodged against her former employer, Catholic Healthcare West (CHW).
The plaintiff, Ani Chopourian, worked as a cardiac surgery physician assistant in CHW’s hospitals from August 2006 until her termination in August 2008. In that time, Chopourian alleged that male co-workers repeatedly confronted her with unwelcome sexual advances, vulgarity, obscene gestures, buttocks slapping and other inappropriate sexual behavior.
Chopourian reported the incidents to CHW—and also filed repeated complaints regarding patient safety, the treatment of women and hospital conditions. Instead of addressing her complaints, CHW fired her.
Then, she alleged, CHW falsified information regarding her references, effectively preventing her from finding employment for a year. That’s when she decided to sue. The jury awarded Chopourian $41.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages for her sexual harassment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Her retaliation claim was worth approximately $15 million.
She got almost $43 million in damages and past and future wages for herclaim. Her defamation claims added nearly $25 million in damages to the award. The jury tacked on another $44 million in personal injury damages.
Note: The Civil Rights Act caps compensatory and punitive damages at $300,000. CHW will no doubt move to knock $41 million from the sexual harassment award.