A medical clinic that sought to have a sex harassment lawsuit against it heard in part as a workers’ compensation matter settled the complaint after a federal judge denied that tactic last month and ordered the case to trial.
U.S. District Judge Richard Vorhees on December 19, 2013 ruled that a lawsuit alleging egregious and unwanted sexual conduct by a doctor toward three of his employees will head to trial, which prompted a quick settlement. The complaint alleges that from late 2005 or early 2006 until 2009, Dr. Hans Hansen, sole owner of The Pain Relief Centers in Conover, Statesville, and Salisbury, sexually harassed Deanna Lingle, Leslie Treadway and Robin Perun. Besides Hansen, the complaint also named PRC and Novant Medical Group (NMG) — the company that owned PRC in 2007-08 — as defendants.
The complaint also alleged assault and battery, negligent hiring, supervision, and retention, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Lingle and Treadway also alleged wrongful discharge.
Hansen is accused of inappropriate touching, asking overtly sexual questions, and making statements with sexual overtones. For example, he allegedly asked Lingle what sexual positions she preferred, put his face against Treadway’s breasts, and asked Perun when she would “put out.” Both Lingle and Treadway reported this conduct to their supervisors.
Lingle, Treadway, and Perun all filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found there was reasonable cause to believe that the women were the victims of a Title VII violation.
An argument made by the defendants and rejected by the court was that the N.C. Industrial Commission must hear the women’s claims for negligence under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The court said that this harassment was not “a natural and probable cause of employment,” but is a risk that can be found equally outside of employment holding the Workers’ Compensation Act did not apply.
This case was resolved by settlement shortly after Vorhees denied the bulk of the defendants’ motions for summary judgment and ordered the case to trial. The terms of the settlement remain confidential.
Attorneys on this case were either unavailable for comment or declined to discuss the matter.
SETTLEMENT REPORT: Employment discrimination
Case name: Deanna Lingle, Leslie Treadway, and Robin Perun v. The Pain Relief Centers, P.A., Hans Hansen, M.D., and Novant Medical Group, Inc.
Case number: 5: 11-CV-168
Court: U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina
Judge: Richard L. Voorhees
Plaintiff’s attorneys: Robert “Hoppy” Elliot (Winston-Salem), Ray G. Corne (Newton)
Defendant’s attorneys: Patrick E. Kelly (Charlotte), Kristine M. Sims (Winston-Salem)