ELLSWORTH — A former clerical employee who worked at Northern Light hospitals in Ellsworth and Blue Hill filed a civil suit in federal court in Bangor on Oct. 5 alleging she was sexually assaulted and harassed by a doctor and that her employer failed to provide a safe workplace. The suit was filed against Northern Light Health and TeamHealth, the national hospital staffing agency that supplies Northern Light Health with many of its doctors, physicians and nurse-practitioners.
Named “Jane Doe” in the complaint, the plaintiff was hired as an administrative practice coordinator in May of 2019 for Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital and Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital. She alleges the hospitals’ medical director at the time, who was also her direct supervisor, soon began making inappropriate comments about her appearance and romantic life and later “sexually assaulted her in a hospital parking lot after a mandatory ‘one-on-one’ dinner meeting.” The doctor is identified only by the initials “B.D.” in the complaint
The plaintiff alleges numerous violations of unwanted sexual contact, sexual texts and calls and, finally, in or about August of 2019, rape.
Northern Light has not yet been served with the suit Suzanne Spruce, Northern Light Health vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, told The American Oct. 11, stating:
“Because Jane Doe has not served us with any lawsuit, and we do not know whether she ever will, it is inappropriate to comment at this time, other than to observe that if Ms. Doe does ever decide to bring a lawsuit against us, we obviously will need to be provided with identity so that we may ascertain the facts and circumstances surrounding her allegations. Regardless who Jane Doe is, however, we take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and have a zero tolerance of such conduct in our health care system. We therefore deny the allegations set forth in Ms. Doe’s complaint.”
The doctor is described in the complaint as a TeamHealth employee contracted to work at the two Maine hospitals, which is why TeamHealth is also named as a defendant in the civil suit.
The plaintiff resigned from her position in April of 2020.
Her claims fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Maine Human Rights Act, and Maine common law, the complaint states. She seeks damages “to redress the injuries she has suffered on the basis of her gender as a result of Defendants’ discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.”
Following earlier verbal complaints, the plaintiff made a formal written complaint to Northern Light and TeamHealth in February of 2020. According to the lawsuit, Northern Light and TeamHealth questioned the doctor, who alleged the sexual encounters were consensual.
The plaintiff’s complaint states that “beyond interviewing Dr. D., Northern Light and TeamHealth failed to conduct an appropriate investigation into Plaintiff’s complaint.”
In mid-March of 2020, the internal investigation concluded. The plaintiff said she was told the doctor no longer would serve as medical director but would continue as a physician at Northern Light.
The suit states that her request to work only at Northern Light Blue Hill to avoid the doctor was denied. She also alleges she was not permitted to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic even though other administrative and nonessential employees were required to do so.
The plaintiff seeks damages including lost wages, compensatory damages and punitive damages “in an amount to be determined at trial,” the complaint states, in addition to all plaintiff attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses. The woman also is seeking a trial by jury. She is represented by Jeffrey Young of Cumberland and Jennifer Siegel of Ridgewood, N.J.
A summons to Northern Light Health and TeamHealth to respond to the suit was signed by U.S. District Court Clerk Christa on Oct. 6.