Jury Hits Hospital With $3.8 Million Verdict For Failing To Protect Employee From Harassment
On March 2, 2018 a Hawaii jury awarded a nurse $3.8 million on her claim that her employer, a hospital, ignored her reports of racial discrimination and harassment. The incidents occurred after the nurse reported a coworker for failing to safely care for patients in the intensive care unit. The nurse received a retaliatory note that contained racially charged language, including the “N” word. After the two people suspected of planting the note were interviewed by the hospital, a picture of a noose was taped to the nurse’s locker.
When the nurse reported the “noose” incident to the HR director and requested a security escort to her car, the director denied the request. At trial the nurse’s supervisor and the HR director minimized the bad intent of the note.
The verdict, which was comprised of $3.2 million in punitive damages and $630,000 in general damages, sent the message that the hospital did not sufficiently investigate the nurse’s claims and take action to protect her.
The verdict reinforces the employer best practice of investigating all claims thoroughly, and taking action when the investigation identifies an employee at risk.