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Federal Lawsuit Claims Harassment at Spectrum Health

6:16 PM, Jun 30, 2005   |    comments
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Grand Rapids - Spectrum Health faces claims it did not protect its workers from sexual and racial harassment. The federal government has filed a lawsuit against Spectrum. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects employees from being discriminated against. The Detroit office receives about $2,000 complaints a year, but only prosecutes about 20. The federal government says it's one of the worst cases of sexual and racial harassment in the workplace it's ever seen. Spectrum Health is slapped with a lawsuit claiming it did nothing to protect 2 female, African-American employees from an in-home care patient. The government says 35 year old Kyle David Briggs, a brain injury patient, had already been let go from one in-home care provider because he was accused of sexual assault. Tammy Klein an EEOC trial attorney says, "Best Care informed us as well as Spectrum that this patient was a danger and he had actually sexually assaulted someone when he was under their care as well. That's why they dismissed him." The lawsuit claims Briggs repeatedly harassed the 2 Spectrum Health employees at his home continually referring to them as the "n-word" and forcing them to touch his genitals. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the women complained to their employer but nothing was done. "Both of our female victims asked to be transferred out of his home position because he had been verbally harassing them and physically touching them throughout their employment. Spectrum didn't do anything about it. All they say is well we'll talk to him," says Klein. Soon after that, the court documents claim Briggs raped at knife point one of the employees. Spectrum Health says a male and female caregiver was always assigned to Briggs' home. And it would "never knowingly expose a staff member to danger and did not do so in this case...." It goes on to say. "The federal lawsuit does not contain an accurate version of the facts in this case. And the safety of staff and patients is always of primary importance for Spectrum Health, particularly where staff members work in a patient's home." The federal government doesn't see it that way. "This woman has been destroyed. She is destroyed. She is so distraught at this moment in her life. I'm not sure that she'll ever recover," says Klein. The government is asking for up to the maximum it can for these two women which is $300,000 a piece. It also wants Spectrum Health to conduct mandatory training on sexual and racial harassment to its employees. Most of these cases never make it to trial. The majority settle out of court.

Carrie Manders

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