Wrongful termination of hospital employee based on race and retaliation. $1.5M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Phlebotomist is fired at UCLA hospital, claims it is racially motivated.

The Case

  • Case Name: Nicole Birden v. The Regents of the University of California
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC663189
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, August 06, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, May 30, 2017
  • Type of Action: Employment, Wrongful Termination
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Michael L. Stern
  • Plaintiffs:
    Nicole Birden, 48, phlebotomist.
  • Defendants:
    The Regents of the University of California
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,576,145.92
  • Economic Damages:

    Past: $190,033.92

    Future: $86,112

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past emotional distress and mental harm: $500,000

    Future emotional distress and mental harm: $800,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff will file Motion for Attorneys' Fees based on California's Fair Employment & Housing Act

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    V. James DeSimone Law by V. James DeSimone and Carmen Sabater, Marina del Rey.

    Bohm Law Group by Ryann Hall, Marina del Rey.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Gordon & Rees LLP by Stephen Ronk and Erika Shao, Los Angeles.

    AlvardoSmith, APC by Raul Salinas, Los Angeles.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant, The UC Regents employed plaintiff for seven months after first employing her through a temp agency for six months. Plaintiff was a per diem phlebotomist assigned to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital. Plaintiff was removed from the schedule in June 2016. Plaintiff filed a wrongful termination suit.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That plaintiff, an African-American phlebotomist, was subjected to a hostile work environment due to her race by the Regents of the University of California at Santa Monica Hospital.

    That plaintiff was given a disproportionate amount of blood draws, was the subject of false and petty complaints, and was referred to as "morena" (dark-skinned woman in Spanish), "mentirosa" (liar), "perezosa" (lazy) and "vaga" (lazy) by her coworkers. That plaintiff was also subjected to offensive music played at work that had lyrics containing the 'n' word and referred to women with derogatory names. The music was played often in the lab where plaintiff and supervisors often worked.

    Plaintiff complained in writing to her supervisors that she was being bullied and harassed, yet the supervisors ignored her complaints. Instead, plaintiff's immediate supervisor relied on the false and harassing complaints plaintiff's coworkers made about her and terminated plaintiff's employment.

    Plaintiff was terminated within weeks of her child's high school graduation and remained unemployed for fifteen months. Plaintiff's damages include past and future lost wages and emotional distress.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant is committed to maintaining a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation of any kind. Ensuring a respectful and inclusive environment is essential to the University’s mission, and employees are encouraged to report any concerns so that they can be reviewed and appropriately addressed consistent with UCLA and University of California policies. 

    Plaintiff was removed from the schedule as a per diem phlebotomist due to poor work performance, frequent failure to comply with the University’s attendance policy, and an incident involving plaintiff making a racially insensitive comment towards a coworker.  Plaintiff was not given a disproportionate amount of blood draws, and multiple witnesses confirmed they never heard plaintiff being referred to in any derogatory names in Spanish. Multiple witnesses also confirmed they never heard offensive music played at work. Defendant denies and disputes that plaintiff is entitled to any damages and maintains any decisions made with respect to plaintiff’s status as a per diem employee were wholly unmotivated or influenced by her race.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Hair loss, skin rash.

  • Emotional distress and mental harm.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $1,400,000 ($3,200,000 per defense counsel.)
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $250,000

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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