A former phlebotomist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was on Tuesday awarded almost $1.6 million in damages after she was reportedly racially harassed by her colleagues.
According to My News LA, the jury awarded 48-year-old Nicole Birden $500,000 for past emotional distress and mental harm, $800,000 for future emotional distress and mental harm, over $190,000 for past economic loss and over $86,000 for future economic loss.
Though Birden, who was fired in 2016 and filed the lawsuit in 2017 also claimed she lost her job as a result of her race, the Los Angeles Superior Court jury moved to dismiss it, siding with the lawyer for the University of California Board of Regents, Stephen Ronk’s argument that she was fired as a result of a “clear pattern of performance issues.”
They, however, established that there was no doubt she was racially harassed and her supervisors did nothing to rectify the situation.
“We are thankful that a diverse Los Angeles jury could come together and give Ms. Birden the justice she deserved after a hard-fought jury trial,” her attorney V. James DeSimone said.
The details of the lawsuit obtained by My News LA claimed that during Birden’s time as a per diem employee at the UCLA Medical Center, she worked in a Latino dominated department together with 5 other black colleagues.
According to Birden, one of her Latino colleagues referred to her as “my n—a” and also played rap music which made references to the N-word, making her feel uncomfortable.
The suit also claimed that other Latino colleagues called her “lazy,” “dark woman” and “liar” in Spanish with some even going as far as labelling her as “the black girl with the attitude.” According to DeSimone, Birden’s several complaints to management about the ongoing harassment “fell on deaf ears,” My News LA further reports.
“There was a culture of discrimination and harassment unfortunately at the lab,” said her attorney.
In a statement to the Atlanta Black Star, a UCLA Health spokesman Phil Hampton said they are “disappointed with the verdict” and 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. 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,” Hampton added.