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Sacramento woman receives one of largest retaliation settlements

California is home to many medical employment opportunities. Yet, extended employment options also increase the possibility of employment discrimination and harassment. A hostile work environment, retaliation and medical employment possibilities should never go hand in hand. Sadly, California employers do sometimes fail to follow existing labor laws and other specific regulations concerning employee rights.

One Sacramento physician's assistant recently won a settlement in a case that involved job loss due to company retaliation against the assistant's justified work-related complaints. After two years of dedicated medical services, this assistant, blameworthy only for filing complaints against a cruel superior, was fired and also denied unemployment benefits.

In court, the representatives of the hospital argued that the assistant was guilty of professional misconduct but the jury rebuked the hospital's take on the story. The fired physician's assistant was awarded $168 million in damages.

The woman filed at least 18 complaints over the course of her employment. The complaints ranged from physical harassment to verbal abuse. In one instance, she was stabbed with a needle by an aggressive co-worker who broke the rib cage of an anesthetized patient in what was described as a fit of rage. In other instances, the woman was called a "stupid chick," was asked if she held ties to Al Queda and was had her bottom slapped by a surgeon who's way of saying hello was to announce that he was horny.

The medical industry is complex, high-pressure and sometimes filled with strife -- especially for the less powerful members of the medical teams. Harassment, violence and retaliation are not acceptable responses for worker complaints. Every employee should understand his or her rights in matters such as these.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "California physician assistant wins $168 million in harassment suit," Carol J. Williams, March 2, 2012

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