Hospital sued over alleged sexual assault

06/08/2014 12:00 AM

06/06/2014 7:00 PM

A surgery technician who says she was fired from North Hills HCA Hospital after reporting she was sexually assaulted by a nurse is suing her former employer and the nurse for more than $1 million.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, is also seeking reinstatement at the North Richland Hills hospital. The lawsuit, alleging an October 2012 assault, was filed in civil court in Tarrant County last week.

“We believe the evidence will show that North Hills Hospital failed to protect my client from severe sexual harassment by its employee in violation of Texas law, especially when this employee apparently had done this type of thing before,” said Jason Smith, one of the attorneys representing the woman.

The Star-Telegram does not name sexual assault victims.

Hospital spokesman Matt Eiserloh said he could not comment on specific allegations in the lawsuit.

“North Hills Hospital takes any concern raised by an employee or former employee very seriously, and for this reason, we have a very rigid policy and code of conduct in place to resolve any issues in a timely and accurate manner,” Eiserloh said.

Nurse Gregory Henderson, accused in the lawsuit of the assault, was charged with sexual assault in December 2012 but a Tarrant County grand jury found there was inadequate evidence to indict him in March 2013.

Henderson could not be reached for comment by the Star-Telegram. He didn’t have a phone listing and he did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Eiserloh said Henderson is no longer employed at the hospital, but he did not give details about when he left and why he no longer works there.

The allegations

The woman had been working at the hospital for seven months when the assault occurred, the lawsuit states.

According to a police report provided to the Star-Telegram by Smith and his client, the assault occurred while the woman and Henderson were on duty at a nurse’s station near the surgery area.

Henderson allegedly “massaged” the woman’s shoulders for a few minutes and motioned for her to accompany him, according to the report. Thinking that he wanted to discuss something, she left the area and described how he pulled her into a unisex restroom, the report states.

Once in the restroom, Henderson allegedly pulled up the woman’s shirt and began kissing her, the report states. He then put his hand down the woman’s pants and “penetrated” her with one finger, the report says.

The woman finally got away from Henderson, and she reported the assault the next day, according to the report.

North Richland Hills police spokesman Keith Bauman confirmed that police investigated a report of a sexual offense at the hospital and that a warrant was issued for Henderson’s arrest. Henderson surrendered Dec. 19, according to North Richland Hills police.

Melody McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, said in an email statement that Henderson was charged with sexual assault Dec. 28, 2012, but that the grand jury “no-billed” him March 6, 2013. He has no pending cases in Tarrant County, she said.

Hostile environment

The woman’s lawsuit alleges that Henderson repeatedly sexually harassed other female employees but that nothing was done to immediately terminate him, creating a hostile work environment.

Smith questioned why the hospital did not transfer her to another facility after she reported the assault, as she had requested.

“If the hospital would have done what it was supposed to, none of this would have happened,” Smith said.

Smith said his client was terminated after she took a leave of absence, and requested a transfer to another HCA facility. He said the woman could not return to work at North Hills because of the incident and she was fired.

Smith questioned why a North Richland Hills police detective and his client were not given an opportunity to testify before the grand jury.

“My client appreciates the efforts of the North Richland Hills Police Department to hold Mr. Henderson accountable. She wishes that the detective had been allowed to testify to the grand jury so they could have made an informed decision,” he said.

According to court documents, the woman also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was issued a “right to sue letter” April 4 this year.

The Texas Board of Nursing shows that Henderson’s nursing license is still active, but spokesman Bruce Holter said he could not confirm or deny whether Henderson is being investigated.

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