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Jury awards nurses $4.3 million in damages for sexual harassment

Gay men and women are often the target of workplace harassment and discrimination, but, occasionally, the shoe ends up on the other foot. A Los Angeles Superior Court jury recently awarded a total of $1.7 million in actual and punitive damages to nurses who claimed they had been subjected to sexual harassment and workplace discrimination by a homosexual male supervisor in the mental health unit at Community Hospital of Long Beach.

The case was brought by two nurses and a nurse's assistant against the hospital, Memorial Psychiatric Health Services (the company that managed the hospital's mental health unit) and the male nurse who directed the unit. The complaint alleged that the manager, who was openly gay, flaunted his homosexuality, gave gay men preferential treatment and showed open disdain for female employees.

The jury deliberated for only two-and-one-half hours before returning a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on the issues of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, defamation and negligent supervision. The jury awarded compensatory damages of $1.4 million to each of the two licensed nurses and $165,175 to the son of the nursing assistant (he was substituted as a plaintiff after his mother died). After the jury found that the individual defendants' conduct was motivated by malice, the court allowed the jury to consider punitive damages. It awarded $1.5 million to the son of the nursing assistant and $100,000 each to the licensed nurses.

Sexual harassment and preferential treatment based on gender are common occurrences in the workplace. Anyone who believes that they have been subjected to such behaviors may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in such cases. An experienced lawyer can provide a helpful analysis of the facts and law of the case, suggest potential legal strategies and offer an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages.

Source: Long Beach Patch, "Community Hospital of Long Beach Loses Harassment Lawsuit, Ordered to Pay $1.7M," Aug. 22, 2016

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