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Harassment + retaliation + defamation = $168 million

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

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 management—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 her wrongful termination claim. 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.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

eJean1981 June 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Good for Ms. Chopourian. The real shame is that she had to go through all this.

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