The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Jury Fines Kaiser for Firing Whistleblower

Jan 1, 2024

A Los Angeles jury awarded a former Kaiser Permanente nurse nearly 41.5 million dollars in damages. The nurse, Maria Gatchalian, had sued Kaiser for retaliation and wrongful termination.

Gatchalian said that Kaiser fired her in 2019 because she had repeatedly reported staff shortages and unsafe conditions in her department to management. Gatchalian had worked at the neonatal intensive care unit in Kaiser’s Woodland Hills hospital for 30 years, the last 13 of it as a lead nurse.

Kaiser argued in court that Gatchalian was fired for placing her feet on a device in violation of safety procedures. But the jury not only didn’t buy Kaiser’s argument; it also voted unanimously for a particularly high amount in damages—30 million dollars of it specifically as punishment for Kaiser.

U.S. courts have a long history of reducing the amount of punitive damage verdicts juries hand out to companies. But even if this 41.5-million-dollar verdict stands, it would amount to just a slap on the wrist for Kaiser—a company that made a profit of more than 80 times that amount in the first nine months of 2023 alone and has an estimated net worth of about 60 billion dollars.

Over the years, many Kaiser workers have pointed to Kaiser’s short staffing, an obvious policy Kaiser uses to increase its profits—just like other companies across the industries. This jury verdict against Kaiser may have vindicated one worker who spoke out, but the fight against working conditions cannot be won in courts that accept—in fact defend—the companies’ profit drive. It’s a fight the working class will have to carry out collectively, using its own forces.