1. Zolot, Joan PA


Lawsuit describes retaliation after she stood up for a colleague.


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A Boston jury awarded $28 million to a Haitian American nurse who sued Brigham and Women's Hospital for discrimination and retaliation. The jury found the Boston hospital guilty of retaliation but not racial discrimination, according to a May 24 article in the Boston Globe.


In the lawsuit, Gessy Toussaint, 70, a nurse at the hospital from 1999 to 2015, described how she spoke up for another nurse after observing a disagreement between the nurse and a physician. She perceived that the physician was being verbally abusive and reported the abuse to managers. In retaliation, according to published reports, Toussaint suddenly faced allegations of poor patient care (she had never been investigated previously). According to Allison MacLellan, the Boston lawyer who represented Toussaint and spoke with AJN, Toussaint's manager cultivated a network of staff to make complaints about Toussaint and thereby generated a paper trail. Toussaint resigned from the hospital in 2015.


The jury found that the hospital and Toussaint's manager were guilty of retaliation. According to Edie Brous, a nurse attorney in New York City and Pennsylvania, and a contributing editor of AJN, "It's very hard to prove discrimination based on race, gender, or age. It's easier to prevail in a retaliation claim because of the timing of the changes in the treatment of the employee."


Said MacLellan: "The timeline was the strongest piece of evidence. The hospital had no problems with this lifelong nurse until this happened." MacLellan told the Globe that the award sent "a message to the Brigham and other institutions that retaliating against someone for standing up for what's right won't be tolerated."


"An award of this size is not intended to compensate the plaintiff for her injuries (compensatory damages) but to punish the defendant (punitive damages) and to serve as a deterrent to others (exemplary damages)," explained Brous. The jury designated $25 million of the $28 million award as punitive damages, according to the Globe.


A hospital spokesperson said in a statement to the Globe, "While it is gratifying that the jury found no evidence of racial discrimination in this case, we strongly disagree with the finding of retaliation." The hospital plans to appeal the verdict.-Joan Zolot, PA