Why (Male) Doctors May Prescribe . . . Tort Reform

A Sacramento area hospital employee has just won a colossal damages award against her former employer for years of sexual harassment and humiliation—by doctors—but also for being fired when she blew the whistle to the human resources department. Her attorney explains.

A 45-year-old woman was the whistleblower who called attention to the hostile work environment at a Sacramento hospital. Recently, the former cardiac surgery physician assistant was awarded an astronomical amount of money in damages.

Roughly four years ago, the woman was fired from her position at Mercy General Hospital after she repeatedly made complaints to the human resources department about constant sexual harassment in the workplace. She suffered through this hostile work environment from 2006 to 2008. A jury in a federal court recently awarded the woman with $168 million. Of that sum, $125 million was for punitive damages and $39 million was for psychological damage.

While this case might mark the most amount of money awarded to an employee in such a case, tales of the deplorable behavior at the hospital proved that she deserved every penny of it. The woman was constantly berated by male surgeons. Many of them would talk down to her and tell her she was bad at her job because she was a woman. One surgeon even stuck a needle in her arm and called her a name.

The rest of the male medical staff at the hospital would also participate in the inappropriate behavior. When one man propositioned the woman with inappropriate behavior, the surgeon in charge of them just laughed. The more the woman complained about the environment to the human resources department, the worse they treated her. In all, she filed 18 complaints about the behavior until she was eventually let go. Hospital officials claimed in court that she was let go because she fell asleep on the job and failed to show up for one of her shifts. She said that was a blatant lie.

The only thing keeping her at the position was the passion she had for her work and the desire to be affiliated with a hospital that carried such a high amount of prestige among the medical community.

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