The owner and chief executive of Prime Healthcare Services Inc., a fast-growing Ontario-based hospital chain, has found himself in the middle of a sex scandal that has resulted in management changes at an Encino hospital and a $1-million wrongful-termination verdict.
A Los Angeles jury awarded the money Wednesday to the former chief nursing officer of Encino Hospital Medical Center after concluding that she was laid off in 2012 because she had complained about an affair between the hospital’s chief medical officer and a female supervisor.
Prime Healthcare maintains the nursing officer was let go because of poor performance and said it intends to appeal.
However, testimony during the Los Angeles County Superior Court trial in Van Nuys paints a rather controversial picture.
The dispute began in 2011, when the nursing officer complained that the hospital’s director of respiratory services bragged to co-workers that she was having an affair the chief medical officer. She told them she had the power to get them fired, according to the lawsuit filed in 2013.
The nursing officer said she complained to about the comments but they did not stop. So she and other nurses took their concerns to the hospital’s chief executive.
According to a transcript of the chief executive’s testimony reviewed by The Times, the man said that he cautioned the hospital’s director of respiratory services about the inappropriate comments and what he said was her unprofessional work attire, which included low-cut tops, short skirts and 6- to 8-inch heels.
In a hospital, the chief executive and chief medical officer oversee different functions and typically are at parallel levels of management.
The chief executive claims that the chief medical officer repeatedly advised him to fire the nursing officer, which he refused to do.
The chief executive said he eventually notified Prime Healthcare executives of the situation, suggesting that both the hospital’s director of respiratory service and chief medical officer needed to be counseled about their conduct.
But instead of disciplining, Prime Healthcare promoted the hospital’s director of respiratory service to corporate director of respiratory services at all of its hospitals, a position she holds today at the company’s corporate offices in Ontario.
The chief medical officer left his position at the Encino hospital in June 2012, and now has privileges to practice pulmonary medicine at several hospitals, both inside and outside of Prime Healthcare’s network.
Shortly after moving the hospital’s director of respiratory service to corporate director of respiratory services, Prime Healthcare fired the chief executive in the summer of 2012. He did not sue Prime Healthcare, and testified that he collected his full salary for about six months after leaving the job.
In September 2012, the company terminated the nursing officer during a round of layoffs.
The former nursing officer, 72, who had worked at the hospital since 2007, earned about $175,000 in salary, bonuses and benefits annually. The jury based the award on the woman’s lost earnings and past emotional distress.
Prime Healthcare is one of the largest hospital companies in the country, with 38 hospitals in 11 states.
Sometimes people are terminated from their place of employment because they are not qualified for the job or just cannot effectively perform the required duties. Being fired for those reasons is not illegal. However, there are numerous circumstances when a terminated employee can seek compensation under the law as a result of a wrongful termination.
Obviously, not many employers will admit that an employee was fired due to wrongful termination. That is why proving wrongful termination claims can be very difficult. These types of cases require an experienced Florida Employment Lawyer at Whittel & Melton who can review the facts of your case, gather information, and help you determine how to best proceed.