Sexually harassed at work, a surgical technician at Adventist Medical Center-Hanford took a cellphone video of one of her tormentors fondling himself in the operating room while a patient was undergoing a medical procedure, a lawsuit filed in Kings County Superior Court says.
The graphic details, as well as the cellphone video evidence, were made public Thursday by Fresno attorney Kevin Little, who accused the hospital of trying to cover up the alleged sexual harassment of the surgical technician and her friend who witnessed it.
“The only way to describe it is shameful,” Little said during a news conference.
The lawsuit accuses Dr. Seetharaman Ashok of touching and kissing surgical assistant/technician Nuvia Green without her consent and making inappropriate comments about her. Little said hospital surveillance cameras also show Ashok “grabbing Green and pushing his private parts toward hers.”
According to the lawsuit, Amy Miller, an imaging technician who is a friend of Green, witnessed the harassment. When the doctor found out, he made a “false allegation of misconduct and incompetence against Miller,” the lawsuit says.
Little said Green and Miller reported the harassment to hospital officials, but no action was taken against Ashok, a urologist.
Ashok wasn’t the only one harassing Green, Little alleges.
The only way to describe it is shameful.
Fresno attorney Kevin Little
From July to September last year, Richard McGrory, a nurse administering anesthesia, began to expose himself to Green in the operating room during surgeries, the lawsuit says.
Green reported McGrory to hospital officials, Little said. Because hospital officials did nothing to stop his behavior, Green decided to videotape McGrory with her cellphone in September without his knowledge. The video shows a man dressed in scrubs exposing himself and masturbating.
Little said the video was taken in an operating room while a patient was undergoing a procedure. Little told reporters that after McGrory gratified himself, he remained in the operating room until the procedure was completed and then, without washing his hands, helped the patient recover.
Green and Miller are seeking unspecified damages for sexual harassment, unlawful sexual battery in the workplace and retaliation.
Green and Miller, who have worked at the hospital seven years, are still employed at Adventist. Ashok, who has a contract with the hospital, still has his privileges there, Little said. McGrory, however, was allowed to resign, Little said. “But they gave him a great recommendation so he could work at another facility,” Little said.
Little said he filed a complaint with the California Board of Registered Nursing months ago, “but they have done nothing” to revoke McGrory’s license. Board spokeswoman Michelle McVay could not immediately comment Thursday on the specific case.
According to California Department of Consumer Affairs online records, McGrory’s nursing licenses are valid with no disciplinary actions.
McGrory could not be reached to comment. A telephone call to Ashok’s office was not returned.
Adventist Medical Center-Hanford has pledged to preserve a work environment free from sexual harassment.
Hospital spokeswoman Christine Pickering
Hospital spokeswoman Christine Pickering said: “We don’t discuss pending litigation; however, employee and patient safety is our highest priority.” She also said any allegations of cover-up against Adventist Medical Center-Hanford are false and misleading.
“Adventist Medical Center-Hanford has pledged to preserve a work environment free from sexual harassment,” Pickering said.
“For the protection of all our employees and patients, we actively seek to prevent sexual harassment with information and policies in our employee handbook as well as training for all our employees. All complaints are treated seriously and kept as confidential as possible. In addition, our policy expressly forbids any retaliation against employees for reporting sexual harassment,” Pickering said.
Court records say the lawsuit was filed in August and amended in October after Green videotaped McGrory.
Little said Green took her video because the hospital refused to turn over its surveillance video of the alleged harassment. He said his clients decided to make their lawsuit public after hospital officials reminded them that they had signed an agreement that compels them to participate in arbitration in lieu of filing a lawsuit. Little said that because the arbitration is confidential, his clients wanted to go public to ensure hospital officials are held accountable.
“They want a public finding that what happened was wrong and a remedy so it won’t happen again,” Little said.
But the plaintiffs’ hopes could end this month. Lawyers for the hospital have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A Kings County judge is expected to rule on Jan. 26 whether the lawsuit can go forward.
If the lawsuit is allowed to go forward, Little said what happened to his clients “is just the tip of the iceberg.” According to Little, when hospital officials confronted McGrory, he wondered why he was being singled out. McGrory then allegedly told hospital officials that his act was nothing compared to other employees having sex in the operating rooms, Little said.