An ex-worker at Auburn Community Hospital's intensive care unit this week filed a complaint against the hospital with the state Division of Human Rights alleging sexual discrimination and a hostile work environment.
The complaint, from Dan Dennis Jr., who worked as a nurse practitioner at the ICU from July 2017 to July 2018, primarily involves complaints against former ACH physician Dr. Jeremy Barnett, the same doctor accused of misconduct — including behavior that endangered patients — in two lawsuits already filed by former ACH doctors.
The law firm representing Dennis, Gattuso & Ciotoli, of Fayetteville, is the same firm representing both doctors in those suits.
Barnett no longer works at the hospital. The hospital's administration, in both a letter to The Citizen from CEO Scott Berlucchi and in prepared statements, have denied that patient care was ever compromised, and noted that the state approved a corrective plan required after a review related to Barnett's behavior. It has also characterized the lawsuits as "unproven" allegations.
Hospital officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment on this story.
According to Dennis' complaint, while working as Barnett's “right-hand-man,” Dennis said he was subjected to “numerous acts of sexual harassment, unwarranted public ridicule, and demeaning conduct in the workplace,” something the complaint said was never investigated or responded to by hospital administration.
Instances of sexual harassment from Barnett described in the complaint include making derisive sexual remarks about patients Barnett and Dennis were treating, making “unprofessional and discomforting” comments about his own sex life, and spreading rumors that the pair were dating.
Barnett also allegedly created a hostile work environment in which he would berate Dennis for things such as offering his own opinions on medical issues, according to the complaint. Dennis said Barnett would often “fly off the handle, yell and scream, acting like a crazy person.”
According to the complaint, Barnett would frequently insult Dennis in front of other staff members. Dennis would also receive harassing phone calls from Barnett outside of normal work hours or at work if Dennis was away from Barnett for “more than a minute or two.”
The complaint also alleges that hospital administrators, specifically CEO Scott Berlucchi and Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Riccio, effectively enabled Barnett's behavior by informing him when complaints were made against him and by whom. In addition to the hospital, Dennis' complaint named Berlucchi, Riccio and Barnett as defendants.
Similar to the separate lawsuits from Dr. Gregory Serfer and Dr. Karen Odrzywolski, Dennis' complaint contends that administrators never responded to complaints, including those from other members of the ICU staff, or took corrective action despite repeatedly having been made aware.
An August state Department of Health investigation into the hospital's handling of complaints about Barnett faulted the hospital for failing to properly respond to numerous complaints about Barnett, including reports of "near misses" with patients. The agency followed up in November and determined the hospital had corrected the issues.
Barnett could not be reached for comment on this complaint. He has not returned phone calls in previous attempts to seek his response to lawsuits.
The state Division of Human Rights, the agency with which Dennis' complaint was filed, receives, investigates and attempts to resolve workplace discrimination complaints. It's findings can ultimately be appealed to the state's courts.