If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.
A former clerical employee says she was sexually harassed and assaulted by a doctor who supervised her. That’s the basis of a civil lawsuit filed on her behalf in federal court against Northern Light Health.
The former employee, identified only as “Jane Doe” in the court complaint, worked at hospitals in Ellsworth and Blue Hill. She alleges that Northern Light Health discriminated against her due to her gender and failed to take adequate action after she reported that the doctor had subjected her to verbal abuse and sexual harassment, both online and in person, and had assaulted her multiple times.
Some sexual assaults occurred in a basement room at Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, another assault occurred in the doctor’s car in a parking lot at the Blue Hill hospital and another at his house, according to the complaint.
Doe is being represented by attorneys Jeffrey Neil Young of Cumberland, Maine, and by Jennifer Siegel of Ridgewood, New Jersey.
Suzanne Spruce, spokesperson for Northern Light Health, said Thursday that because the healthcare provider had not yet been served with a complaint, “we are not in a position to comment at this time.”
The doctor is referred to in the complaint, which was filed Tuesday in federal court in Bangor, only by his apparent initials, B.D. The complaint states he was the medical director of the hospitals in Blue Hill and Ellsworth until March 2020, when he was removed from that position as a result of complaints Doe had filed the prior month with Northern Light administrators.
Despite the doctor being stripped of his role as medical director, he was kept on staff as a physician and Doe’s verbal complaints “fell on deaf ears,” the complaint said. On two occasions, administrators allegedly instructed her to apologize to the doctor and took no corrective action in response to his verbal abuse.
At one point an executive with TeamHealth, a Tennessee healthcare staffing outsourcing firm firm that hired and paid Doe, allegedly told her “If I were you, I’d pretend like none of this had even happened.”
TeamHealth also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Doe said she was also denied the opportunity to shift to remote work as the COVID-19 pandemic spread in Maine in March 2020 though many other hospital employees were allowed to do the same. Her job in helping to manage patient documents and billing was done predominantly over email and by phone.
Another request to work from the hospital in Blue Hill to avoid direct contact with the doctor was also denied. As a result, she was subjected to an ongoing hostile work environment at the Ellsworth hospital, according to the court complaint.
The environment included working in a room that shared a wall with the doctor’s office where in late March 2020, after he had been removed as medical director, the doctor repeatedly slammed his office door when he returned from seeing patients.
“At the time, Dr. D was aware that [the] plaintiff was working in her office next door,” the court complaint said. “Plaintiff experienced dread and anxiety in response to Dr. D’s repeated door slamming.”
Doe then decided to leave her job in early April 2020, less than a year after being hired.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued her a right to sue letter in July of this year and, having exhausted her options for a remedy under the Maine Human Right Act, she intends to request a right to sue letter from the Maine Human Rights Commission, the complaint said.
She is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial on her claims.