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Senior Managers Must Prevent Supervisor Harassment, Discrimination

It is illegal for employers to discriminate against or harass employees because of age, national origin, and other protected classifications.  An employer that terminates an employee for such reasons can anticipate a lawsuit for wrongful termination. Also, an employee resignation due to a discriminatory work environment created or condoned by the employer may amount to a wrongful “constructive” termination if those conditions are found intolerable.

In the recent Galvan v. Dameron Hospital Ass’n decision, a California appeals court agreed  supervisor Doreen Alvarez may have harassed and discriminated against 54-year-old Filipino nurse Shirley Galvan and three other foreign-born nurses with insulting, degrading and humiliating statements. Her stated intention to others was to get rid of these nurses for reasons based on age and foreign birth.

After Ms. Alvarez terminated one nurse and caused so much stress the other two resigned or went on leave, Ms. Galvan also went out on stress-related disability leave and did not return.  She then sued the employer.

While the trial judge had ruled in favor of the hospital, the three-judge appeals panel sent the case back for a trial, ruling that Ms. Galvan’s claims for wrongful discharge, discrimination, and harassment were supported by the bad behavior of her supervisor. Even though the hospital administration was unaware of Ms. Alvarez’s behavior, the Court found her actions as a supervisor constituted intentional behavior by the hospital.

To avoid such lawsuits and ensure their employees are treated well, senior managers should:

  • Proactively seek to know what is going on with their workforce;
  • Have clear policies;
  • Remind employees regularly to report bad behavior, whether targeting themselves or others;
  • Take action to prevent such behavior and correct it when it does arise;
  • Consult their employment attorney for advice to avoid such situations and to deal with them when they occur.

See also:

For further information, please contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin

September 23, 2019