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Lawsuit: Sanford Health pressured medical director to resign

August 30, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A former executive is suing Sanford Health, saying she suffered gender discrimination, was assaulted at work and that her supervisors pressured her to resign after she complained about lax security at her clinic.

Dr. Jolene Mitchell resigned as the medical director of Sanford Clinic in Sioux Falls in April. In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal district court in Sioux Falls, Mitchell said officials ignored her complaints regarding security threats.

The clinic provides outpatient services and specializes in diagnosing, treating and preventing workplace illnesses and injuries. The lawsuit says the facility serves a lot of convicted criminals who required mandatory drug screenings. Some are convicted sex offenders, the Argus Leader reported.

The lawsuit says Sanford discriminated against Mitchell because of her gender and cited complications with her pregnancy as a reason to pressure her to leave.

Sanford has denied the claims. Paul Hanson, the president of Sanford Sioux Falls, said workplace safety is always a top priority.

“Sanford Health investigated and addressed Dr. Jolene Mitchell’s concerns during her employment,” Hanson said in a statement. “After Dr. Mitchell’s resignation, (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) conducted an independent investigation of the conditions where Dr. Mitchell worked and found no workplace safety violation or citations.”

Mitchell began documenting threats to her security in the summer of 2017 and she provided that information to her supervisors, Dr. Joel Blanchard and Stephanie Murdock, the lawsuit says.

Mitchell was assaulted twice, including being punched in the abdomen while she was pregnant, the suit says. Separately, a patient who claimed to be a pedophile made threats that led to staff calling police repeatedly over the course of two or three days.

In July 2018, Mitchell sent an email to her supervisors asking for more security because she was seeing an uptick in patients who had violent criminal histories and who tampered with drug tests.

“I understand that security is not perfect and is costly but I am at a loss for maintaining the safety of my patients, providers, and staff,” she wrote in the email. “Please any assistance would be greatly appreciated.”

Meanwhile, Blanchard repeatedly referred to Mitchell’s pregnancy, probed her “emotional health” and suggested she enroll in counseling, according to the lawsuit.


Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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