WESTWOOD—A jury has sided with a former UCLA Health phlebotomist in a racial harassment suit filed back in 2017. The plaintiff, Nicole Birden, 48, sued the University of California Board of Regents for wrongful termination and discrimination. Birden is set to receive $1.58 million from UC Regents.
Birden, who is African American, claims she endured a hostile work environment at UCLA when she started working there in 2015. Her co-workers called her derogatory names, bullied her and ultimately ended up tampering with blood samples in order to sabotage her performance on the job. After complaining to her supervisor, Birden was fired in 2016.
According to Birden’s attorney, V. James DeSimone, his client was called, “the black girl with the attitude,” by some of her co-workers.
Attorney Stephen Ronk, who represented the UC Board of Regents argued that Birden was fired due to a “clear pattern of performance issues.” He explained to jurors that Birden never said in her initial complaints that she felt she was treated different because she was African American.
UCLA issued a statement expressing disappointment with the verdict, but are reviewing the decision and their options.
“Ensuring a respectful and inclusive environment is essential to the university’s mission, and employees are encouraged to report any concerns so that they can be reviewed and appropriately addressed consistent with UCLA and University of California policies,” said UCLA in a statement.
They reiterated that UCLA Health is committed to a maintaining a positive workplace without discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
Written by Alexandra White and Christianne McCormick