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September 09, 2003
Federal Jury Awards $4M in Retaliation Lawsuit
A federal jury in Virginia awarded $4,050,000 on Tuesday to a woman who claimed her former employer, Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center, Inc., unlawfully retaliated against her.

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The jury awarded $1,050,000 in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages to Stephanie Denninghoff, who says she was forced to resign from her position as director of operative services following her attempts to prevent sexual harassment in the hospital's operating rooms and facility, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Denninghoff.

In the lawsuit, the agency says Denninghoff responded to complaints about a nurse's hugging, kissing, embracing and rubbing doctors and other staff members. Denninghoff, in her capacity as the nurse's supervisor, with the involvement of human resources, verbally warned the nurse about this behavior being inappropriate, according to the EEOC.

Following the nurse's counseling, the the nurse complained to doctors and staff members about being treated unfairly, threatened to quit and ultimately did so, the EEOC says.

Several doctors complained to management about Denninghoff's role in addressing this behavior and one prominent doctor threatened to remove his business from DePaul Hospital unless she was terminated and the nurse brought back to the hospital, according to the lawsuit.

Denninghoff says she was asked to resign her position or be terminated, allegedly for a "breach of confidentiality." She resigned and then filed a complaint with the agency.

Federal statute limits the amount of recovery for compensatory and punitive damages to $300,000 for an employer the size of DePaul Hospital. The court will later determine the amount of any back-pay or front-pay award Denninghoff is entitled to in addition to the compensatory and punitive damages.


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