Medical center denies claims of sexual harassment by co-worker. $775K arb award. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Female hospital employee is sexually harassed by female co-worker. When she goes out on stress leave, the co-worker is fired for other reasons.

The Case

  • Case Name: Barnes v. AHMC San Gabriel Valley Medical Center
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court /19STCV02222; AAA Case No. 01-19-0003-0729
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, September 02, 2022
  • Date of Arbitration Award : Friday, September 02, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, January 23, 2019
  • Type of Action: Sexual Harassment
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Arbitrator Eric Epstein, Esq.
  • Plaintiffs:
    Brandy Barnes
  • Defendants:
    AHMC San Gabriel Valley Medical Center
    AHMC Healthcare Inc.
  • Type of Result: Arbitration Award

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $775,789.85
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    AHMC San Gabriel Valley Medical Center: $775,789.85

  • Economic Damages:

    $7,003.02

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $37,500

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 8 arbitration days
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for attorneys' fees and costs.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Offices of John Dalton by John Dalton, Solana Beach.

    Law Offices of Jason L. Oliver by Jason Oliver, Pasadena.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Musick Peeler & Garrett by William Tebbe, Los Angeles.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Claimant/plaintiff, Brandy Barnes (Ms. Barnes), worked in the PBX (telephone systems) Department as an operator for Respondent/defendant AHMC San Gabriel Valley Medical Center (AHMC). Defendant Dina Quang also worked in the PBX Department as an operator.

    Soon after they started working together, Ms.Quang began making graphic, vulgar and rude comments about Ms. Barnes’s breasts. Ms. Quang told Ms. Barnes she liked women sexually, she asked Ms. Barnes about her sex life, asked for Ms. Barnes to show Ms. Quang her breasts, and also asked Ms. Barnes if she could take a photo of Ms. Barnes’s breasts. Ms. Quang had sexually graphic conversations on her cell phone in Ms. Barnes’s presence and would put her cell phone in front of Ms. Barnes’ face with a photo of a naked woman on it. On one occasion, when Ms. Quang did this, she told Ms. Barnes the naked woman was her lover.

    Sometimes Ms. Quang would take photos of Ms. Barnes without her permission while Ms. Barnes was working at her desk. Ms. Quang would stare at Ms. Barnes while Ms. Barnes was working at her desk and while doing so, would lick her lips. Ms. Quang would often block Ms. Barnes’ path. Ms. Quang often told Ms. Barnes to “quit playing hard to get.” Ms. Barnes never reciprocated in any this sex-based and offensive conduct and her near constant requests to Ms. Quang to stop her disgusting conduct regularly resulted in Ms. Quang laughing at Ms. Barnes or ignoring her protests. When Ms. Barnes told Ms. Quang that she would report her, Ms. Quang just laughed and said no one would believe her.

    Ms. Barnes's verbal complaints to her supervisors were ineffective. Eventually, Ms. Barnes went out on stress leave. While on stress leave, realizing she would probably never get her job back, she complained of Ms. Quang's abuse in writing. Although an investigation corroborated a good amount of Ms. Quang's sexual misconduct, and one other victim of said misconduct, the findings of the investigation stated that Ms. Barnes' s claims were unsubstantiated.

    Ms. Barnes was never told the result of the investigation, in violation of company policy, and although Ms. Quang was terminated within a month of the investigation being completed, for unrelated reasons, Ms. Barnes was not told of the termination, thereby preventing her from returning to work for almost five months. When, on the advice of AHMC's counsel, she was finally told of Ms. Quang's termination, Ms. Barnes decided not to  return to work there.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Ms. Barnes was sexually harassed by co-worker, Dina Quang. AHMC received notice of Ms. Quang's sexual misconduct and failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent it from occurring because Ms. Barnes's complaints to her supervisors were ineffective. Ms. Barnes was forced to go out on stress leave. While out on stress leave, her written complaint forced AHMC to do an investigation. This investigation uncovered a substantial amount of corroborating evidence supporting Ms. Barnes's allegations, including her initial complaints to a supervisor and one "me too" victim. This corroboration was then excised from the final investigation report and the official finding of the investigation was that Ms. Barnes's allegations were unsubstantiated, all of which adds to Ms. Barnes's failure-to-prevent claim against AHMC.

    In retaliation for complaining of the sexual harassment, AHMC failed to inform Ms. Barnes of the result of its investigation, in violation of its own policies, thereby depriving Ms. Barnes' s of her right to appeal AHMC's findings. AHMC also retaliated against Ms. Barnes by failing to inform Ms. Barnes for five months that Ms. Quang had been terminated, knowing that Ms. Quang's presence was the only thing that was preventing Ms. Barnes from returning to work.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    AHMC contended there was no sexual harassment; Ms. Barnes did not verbally complain to her supervisors; the corroborating evidence was taken out of the final investigation report because it was irrelevant, and there was no retaliation against Ms. Barnes.

    Ms. Barnes was not told the result of the investigation because it was none of her business and she was not told of Ms. Quang's termination because it would violate Ms. Quang''s privacy rights.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress damages including humiliation; embarrassment; helplessness; stomach upset; intimidation; fearfulness; anxiety; worry; fatigue; headaches; fright; loss of self-esteem; loss of self-confidence; anger; nervousness; loss of trust; sleeplessness; shock; loss of dignity; sadness; crying.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $7,000.02

Additional Notes

Claimant's motion for attorneys' fees and costs resulted in an award of $731,286.83.