Nurse Who Reported Safety Concerns Awarded $41.49 Million in Case Against Kaiser
A former nurse, Maria Gatchalian, was awarded $41.49 million by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury for her claims against Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. Gatchalian asserted that she faced retaliation for raising concerns about patient safety and care quality, leading to her termination in 2019 over a minor policy violation.
The jury granted Gatchalian $11.49 million in compensatory damages, including $9 million for emotional distress, and $30 million in punitive damages. She had been employed at Woodland Hills Kaiser Permanente Hospital since 1989, serving as an NICU registered nurse and later as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit charge nurse.
Kaiser's defense argued that Gatchalian had violated policy by placing her bare feet on a medical device in 2019, as evidenced by a photo submitted in court. They stated that her termination was based on the loss of confidence in her.
However, Gatchalian's lawsuit, filed in April 2021, claimed she consistently raised concerns about patient safety and care quality due to alleged understaffing, with witnesses testifying to the facility being undermanned. She asserted that Kaiser management discouraged formal complaints to avoid investigations, prioritizing profits over patient well-being.
Whistleblower Protection for Reporting Safety Violations
Whistleblower protection laws play a crucial role in upholding workplace safety standards. One key legislation offering such protection is the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Under OSHA, employees are shielded from retaliation when they exercise their right to report safety violations. Section 11(c) of the Act expressly prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against workers who engage in protected activities, such as raising concerns about workplace safety or reporting violations to the appropriate authorities, including OSHA itself. This provision is fundamental in fostering a culture of transparency and accountability within organizations, encouraging employees to speak up without fear of reprisal.
If you believe you've been retaliated against by your employer for reporting safety hazards, consider speaking with an attorney. The Kardell Law Group represents whistleblowers, helping them navigate the legal landscape and assert their rights effectively. Contact us today.