Healthcare News & Insights

Record damages in PA’s harassment case: $168M

A physician’s assistant has been granted a record-setting award for her claims of sexual harassment and other abuse at the hands of her former employer.

Ani Chopourian, a physician’s assistant, worked at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, California for about two years, until she was fired in 2008. Chopourian was part of the cardiac surgery unit.

She claimed in her suit that over the years she had filed numerous complaints with human resources regarding a variety of problems, such as a lack of breaks for the PA staff and a demeaning atmosphere for female staffers in general. Chopourian said she was singled out with derisive comments made about her ethnic background, and was repeatedly grabbed — sometimes in front of supervisors who laughed when she asked them for help. Among her claims, Chopourian said one surgeon in particular would greet her daily by slapping her butt and telling her, “I’m horny.”

Chopourian was eventually fired after the hospital said she failed to show up for work one day, and claimed she had been a problematic employee for some time. (Chopourian says she was on call that day, but never notified she was needed at the hospital.)

After the firing, Chopourian filed her suit against the hospital, claiming it created a hostile work environment and fired her to shut her up. Since then, she’s been unable to find other work.

Mercy Hospital management claimed during the trial that the only person who acted unprofessionally at Mercy was Chopourian — but the jurors didn’t buy it. She was awarded a whopping $168 million in damages — the largest finding ever for a single employee in a sexual harassment case. The jury awarded nearly $43 million for lost wages and mental anguish, and another $125 in punitive damages.

The hospital says it’ll appeal the judgment.

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  1. Wow!!! That’s a humongous money for somebody like a PA. I remember when I was a resident, we had staff physicians that says words that are malicious and demeaning most of the time. These words built our characters. It seems to me that physician assistants should go the same training like us to build their character and be more sociable and be more tolerable to the environment. When she first noticed that her job environment is hostile, the first thing to do is to leave that environment . She didn’ t leave because she wanted to escalate to have a case!!! That’s just my thoughts.

  2. It is never ok to work with “character building” incidents going on. This is harassment; no ifs ands or buts about it. The first thing to do in a hostile environment is to report it and keep reporting it. Obviously management didn’t do the right thing to stop the harassment. There will always be people who make up things to be able to win lawsuits but that does not give anyone the right to blame the innocent who just want to do their job in a positive environment. The very last resort is leaving the job; not the first.