Workplace harassment case lands victim $168 million, the largest harassment award in U.S. history
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on March 28th, 2012
For two years while she worked as a physician’s assistant in a California hospital, Ani Chopourian said there had been at least 18 incidents of vile workplace harassment from co-workers, including a doctor who would tell her each morning that he was horny.
Recently, the 45-year-old woman’s case was heard in a California courtroom, with a jury awarding her $168 million in damages, which is believed to be the largest workplace harassment/discrimination verdict in U.S. history, according to a story in The Los Angeles Times.
The mental abuse was widespread, according to the story, from a “bullying surgeon who once stabbed her with a needle and broke the ribs of an anesthetized heart patient in a fit of rage” to another who “would call her ‘stupid chick’ in the operating room and made disparaging remarks about her Armenian heritage, asking if she had joined Al Qaeda.”
The hospital countered her lawsuit by arguing that it was the victim herself who was “guilty of professional misconduct, which was why they fired her and tried to deny her unemployment benefits,” according to the story. The jury, however, sided with the plaintiff and her claims.
The jury awarded her $125 million in punitive damages and $42.7 million for lost wages and mental anguish.
Obviously, not every workplace harassment case will be decided in such a clear way by a jury or a court, but what this case shows is that juries can take such allegations very seriously.
No one deserves to be abused where they work by ugly words, sexist comments, mental abuse or other forms of harassment or discrimination. It should not and cannot be tolerated in the workplace. Yet these kinds of incidents occur all the time.
Workplace harassment and discrimination can happen anywhere, from corporate boardrooms to factory floors to retail stores to hospitals, construction sites and everywhere in between.
So what do you do if you feel you are being seriously harassed or discriminated against where you work?
First, there are state and federal agencies where you can file a formal complaint to get your claims on the record and begin a paper trail that will lay out the facts of your case.
In the Philadelphia metropolitan area, you can file with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There are different offices in the state for each agency depending upon the county where you reside (see Web site above).
There are strict time deadlines for filing a discrimination or harassment complaint, so be sure to follow the instructions of each agency very carefully.
You can also protect your rights by talking with a caring, qualified and professional attorney who can fight for you to stop the harassment and discrimination and end the abuse through a successful verdict or settlement.
This kind of abuse, harassment and discrimination in the workplace will only end when the bullies learn that their vile actions will not be tolerated.
Your workplace should have rules and policies in place to handle such incidents today, but sometimes the courts are the only place to truly work to stop the abusive behavior.
If you or a loved one is ever faced with such a situation in your workplace, in your school or in your community, you should fight back and take a stand in your own behalf to halt the cycle of abuse in its tracks.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer are here if you need to talk.
When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.