“Jane Doe”, who was employed as a unit secretary at Washington Hospital, has filed a claim against her former employer in Washington County Court. She alleges that prior to undergoing a surgical procedure co-workers took revealing photos of her and shared them. She claims that she was lying unconscious in the operating room in preparation for hernia surgery when a nurse used a cellphone camera to obtain the photographs. She further alleged that the surgeon, Dennis Brown, was aware of the incident and did not issue a report. She described her reaction as one of “horror and shock” once she became aware of the circulating photos.
The claim said that having a cellphone in a sterile surgery room is a severe risk for infection, which the state’s Department of Health investigated further. The victim notified management who terminated the employment of the nurse. The claim describes her work environment as being “hostile and abusive” and that she has endured humiliation because of the incident. She claims that although she was no longer on-site working at the hospital, that the harassment continued beyond the workplace.
Initially, after the report became widely publicized, a spokesperson for the hospital refused to issue a comment. However, a day later, Larry Pantuso, Vice President of Strategy and Clinical Services, came out to dispute the validity of the claim. Pantuso stated that the plaintiff was a participant in what was deemed to be a prank, and actually brought some “fake” intestines into the operating room that she placed on the region of her abdomen. He says that hospital management has taken disciplinary actions against those involved for privacy violations and other misconduct.
In the aftermath of the incident, the plaintiff took some time off from work. The hospital granted her two weeks of paid time off for her “well-being” and time for relaxation. A host of emotional problems have persisted since, as she claims to suffer from anxiety, trouble sleeping and migraine headaches. Her primary care doctor suggested she take an extended break from work to address her problems and she took leave according to the Family Medical Leave Act. She did not return to her job and had her employment formally terminated.
The suit, which is requesting a jury trial, includes other claims including violations of her privacy and her husband is also a plaintiff named in the action. “John Doe” is alleging losses of consortium associated with stress that has led to significant physical and mental concerns. The plaintiffs say the hospital has not implemented measures to prevent further similar situations or to enter into mediation. The defense contends that they proposed some accommodations to allow her to return to her job, but that she did not pursue this option.