It’s been some five years since Ellen Harris, a registered nurse at the Queen’s Medical Center in Hawaii, filed a lawsuit claiming that she was subject to racial discrimination and harassment while doing her job.
Last week, a jury ruled in her favor, awarding her $3.8 million in damages as a result of her treatment.
“I’m just happy that a Hawaii jury saw the evidence and felt that what happened to me was wrong,” Harris said, according to KITV.
Harris was working in the hospital’s intensive care unit from 2006 to 2011 when she reported several patient issues in the unit where she worked. She claimed that the racial discrimination and retaliation she faced was a result of this.
“It escalated to the point where she reports a nurse walking by a patient—who is actually pulling out their ventilator tube—and not doing anything and saying, ‘Hey Ellen, your patient’s doing some crazy stuff.’ She gets this the next day after making that report,” her attorney, Carl Varady, explained, holding up a copy of one of the notes that Harris received, which read, “Lazy Ass Nigger Bitch.”
Harris said that she received two racist notes at work; one note had the n-word written on it, while the other one was a photo of a noose.
“It was just kind of that fear after that, especially not knowing exactly who did it,” she said.
She of course reported both incidents and also requested the results of the investigation from the hospital, but she never got those results. She also requested an apology ... but that never happened, either.
“No one said it was wrong. No one said this is not acceptable,” she said.
“From start to finish, Queen’s never apologized, never admitted liability ... tried to degrade and criticize,” Varady added. “In closing argument ... all they had to say about her was she’s a liar don’t believe her ... but the jury heard otherwise.”
Harris was awarded $3.2 million total in punitive damages, plus another $630,000 in general damages in her lawsuit against the hospital.
Varady said that to his knowledge, it would make one of the largest damage awards involving an employment case in state history. However, whether Harris will actually see the money is another story.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Queen’s Medical Center issued a statement saying, “We are very disappointed in today’s verdict and will be filing an appeal. Because this is pending litigation, we will not comment further.”