October 18, 2016
On Aug. 19, 2016, a jury ruled in favor of two former straight nurses from the Community Hospital of Long Beach, awarding them $2.8 million after they suffered harassment and discrimination from a fellow nurse, an openly homosexual male.
Taking slightly more than a day to reach their decision, the Los Angeles Superior Court jury also awarded $165,175 to the son of another plaintiff, Lisa Harris, who passed away prior to trial. Judy Alexander and Johann Hellmannsberger were the two plaintiffs, and Memorial Psychiatric Health Services was also listed as a defendant.
Nurse Keith Kohl supervised the unit, which treated mentally ill patients. The three plaintiffs worked directly under him. The lawsuit accused Kohl of subjecting the women to a hostile work environment because he was prejudiced against females, showed preferential treatment to homosexual male nurses and flaunted his sexual orientation while at work.
The jury found that the defendant subjected the plaintiffs to discrimination, retaliation, defamation, sexual harassment, negligent supervision, wrongful termination and failure to prevent harassment and discrimination. The jury determined that the defendants acted with malice or oppression, opening the door for possible additional punitive sanctions against CHLD and MPHS.
The defense team claimed that the trio was fired in April 2009 after they violated hospital regulations and state laws. They reportedly used restraints on a patient although they were not ordered to do so by a doctor and did not properly document the use of said restraints. According to the attorneys, they lied about the incident and covered up their actions. Other hospital employees were involved.
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in November 2009. Lisa Harris, the third plaintiff, passed away in September 2014, so her son represented her interests in the lawsuit.
Media could not reach Kohl or his lawyers for additional comments on the case.
Federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination on the job due to their sexual orientation. For over thirty years, John Rosenbaum has been Orange County’s premiere Workers Compensation and Personal Injury attorney.