On Thursday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Interventional Pain Management Associates (IPMA) and Baxter Health claiming both organizations violated federal law when they fired an employee for responding to Baxter Health’s investigation of alleged sexual harassment of another employee.
According to the lawsuit, in April 2019, an employee reported to her supervisor, a Physician Assistant, and to Baxter Health that one of the two doctors working at IPMA at the time were sexually harassing her. After Baxter Health investigated the allegations, the doctor went on a sabbatical.
In March 2022, the Physician Assistant stated she was told to resign no later than April 29, 2022 due to ongoing discussions with Baxter, IPMA, and the doctor on sabbatical about the possibility of his return to IPMA. She stated she was told the doctor and her could not work together because of her involvement in the sexual harassment investigation. Because she refused to resign, she was terminated on April 29.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost benefits, and an injunction against future discrimination.
In a statement from Baxter Health, officals state “At Baxter Health, we are dedicated to creating and maintaining an environment that is safe, respectful, and free from any form of harassment. We consider this commitment not just an ethical imperative but a fundamental part of our responsibility as an organization. As such, we are committed to a comprehensive and impartial investigation of all allegations, and cooperated with the EEOC’s investigation. However, it is important to clarify that the individual who filed this complaint was not, at any point in time, an employee of Baxter Health, and Baxter Health in fact had no involvement in or influence over IPMA’s decision to terminate the individual’s employment.”
Edmond Sims, acting district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and portions of Mississippi states “An employer cannot punish an employee for opposing treatment that the employee reasonably believes constitutes discrimination. Terminating an employee for this activity creates a chilling effect in the workplace and discourages others from complaining.”
IPMA is an outpatient department of Baxter Health.
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