A federal jury in Sacramento, Calif., Feb. 29 unanimously awarded almost $168 million in damages and lost wages to a physician assistant who alleged that she routinely endured vulgarity, obscenity and sexually inappropriate behavior from male co-workers
at hospitals owned and operated by Catholic Healthcare West (Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare West, E.D. Cal., No. CIV S-09-2972, verdict 2/29/12).
The verdict awarded in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California included compensatory and punitive damages totaling $41.3 million for Ani Chopourian’s sexual harassment claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; almost $15 million for her Title VII retaliation claim; nearly $43 million in damages and past and future wage losses related to her wrongful termination claim; and almost $25 million in compensatory and punitive damages on her defamation claim. The jury also found that Chopourian was denied meal breaks in violation of the state wage and hour law.
Chopourian, who holds masters’ degrees from UCLA and the Yale University Medical School, filed the lawsuit in 2009, after she was terminated by CHW, which is now known Dignity Health Systems.
While CHW argued that it terminated Chopourian for not being “a team player” who, among other failings, showed up late for work, in fact, the hospital system called her out of surgery and had its chief of security escort her from the hospital less than a week after she filed her last complaint about working conditions.
In all, Chopourian submitted 18 written complaints concerning patient safety, abuse of women, and hospital conditions, and made numerous other reports orally to CHW management, he added.
Chopourian worked as a cardiac surgery physician assistant in the Cardio Vascular Operation Department of CHW’s Mercy General and Mercy San Juan hospitals from August 2006 until her termination in August 2008.
During that time, she alleged that she was confronted on a daily basis with repeated and unwelcome sexual advances and propositions from male co-workers; vulgarity; obscene gestures; buttocks slapping; and other inappropriate sexual behavior, including discussions by male surgeons of their sex lives. 03.07.2012