Sexually Inappropriate Conduct, Retaliation, Bullying Result in $168 Million Win

Law Firm Newswire



Sacramento, CA (Law Firm Newswire) January 9, 2015 – The inappropriate treatment and unjust dismissal of a physician’s assistant at a Sacramento, Calif. hospital has led to what may be one of the largest awards in U.S. history for a sole victim of harassment in the workplace.

Ani Chopourian, a physician’s assistant and graduate of the Yale School of Medicine, won a lawsuit in 2014 centering around events occurring over the course of her two-year employment at Mercy General Hospital. Chopourian was subjected to such conduct as being called a “stupid chick” while working in the O.R., male co-workers inappropriately touching her daily, being regularly informed by a physician that he was horny and being stabbed with a needle. She was even asked sarcastically if she had joined Al Qaeda because she is Armenian.

In court, hospital managers alleged it was the plaintiff who was guilty of professional misconduct and they had grounds to not only terminate her, but also deny unemployment benefits. Still, the jury found for the plaintiff after hearing multiple witnesses describe the hostile and arrogant workplace culture existing at the hospital. They handed down an award that included $125 million in punitive damages and $42.7 million for lost wages and mental anguish.

“Although this case is notable for its award, it is also notable for the egregious events that led to the plaintiff filing a harassment lawsuit,” indicated employment attorney Deborah Barron of Barron Law of Sacramento. The plaintiff had filed at least 18 complaints during her employment there while working with the cardiovascular team, but nothing had been done about them. Mercy General plans to appeal the decision.

As it stands, the high award may be reduced on appeal or as a result of possible settlement talks. Nonetheless, the jury felt, given the facts of the case, that it was merited. “If you find yourself in a similar situation, contact an experienced employment attorney and find out what your rights are,” added Barron.

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