Finance News & Insights

Daily advances lead to record-setting harassment verdict

For employers, it’s best not to let sexual harassment claims be decided by a jury — especially when there was ample warning about the problem before it ended up in court.

Ani Chopourian was a cardiac surgery physician’s assistant at Mercy General Hospital in California for two years. Over the course of that time, Chopourian said she suffered everything from sexual advances to inappropriate touching to one doctor repeatedly making his entrance in the surgery suite by announcing, “I’m horny.”

Rather than tolerating the abuse, Chopourian made a total of 18 written complaints, as well as a number of verbal ones.

However, the only action the hospital took was to terminate Chopourian following her 18th written complaint, eight days after it was stamped “received.” (Any negative employment action is believed to be retaliatory if it’s made within 120 days of a complaint under California law.)

This led Chopourian to file suit against the hospital, which attempted to defend itself by saying she was fired for failing to show up for on-call rounds — a claim which it could not prove.

In the end, a jury awarded Chopourian a total of $167.7 million, the largest verdict to an individual employment plaintiff in U.S. history.

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