UCLA hospital worker awarded $1.5 million in racial harassment lawsuit

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It is still very difficult for Nicole Birden.

"Anytime you can refer to your coworker as the N-word in 2016 it's unacceptable," Birden says.

She alleges shortly after she started working at UCLA Hospital in Santa Monica, she experienced racial harassment and bullying by co-workers.

"I was called racial names, the N-word, other names in a different language," she says.

Birden's job was to draw blood from patients. According to the lawsuit she filed for discrimination and wrongful termination, she did her job well and there were no complaints. She claims fellow employees tampered with her work.

"Some of my blood samples that I would draw from patients in the hospital were being discarded in the trash and also being labeled with another patient's name to try to sabotage my reputation and my performance," Birden says.

She says that could cause serious problems to a patient.

In her complaint, she says she reported it to her supervisors, but they didn't investigate or take any corrective action.

"Ms. Birden did tell her supervisor about that verbally. She complained in writing. Her e-mails that she sent complaining of bullying and harassment were absolutely ignored by both of her supervisors," her attorney James DeSimone say.

After a year, Birden was fired. She sued and a jury agreed it was racial harassment and awarded her $1.58 million.

UCLA issued a statement, which says in part:

"We are disappointed with the verdict, and we are reviewing the decision and considering all available options. UCLA Health is committed to maintaining a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation of any kind."

"Instead of issuing a statement that says we're disappointed by the verdict, maybe UCLA Hospital should look inward and figure out how can they do better both for their employees and their patients," DeSimone says.
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