Lawsuit: MUSC fired nurse who complained about sexual harassment, assault

VIDEO: Lawsuit: MUSC fired nurse who complained about sexual harassment, assault

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A federal lawsuit filed this week claims the Medical University of South Carolina fired a registered nurse with the health care system’s Institute of Psychiatry after she complained about incidents of sexual harassment and assault she said she experienced.

Lisa Chapman detailed the allegations in court documents filed on Jan. 8.

She says MUSC violated Title VII by creating a hostile and abusive work environment and fired Chapman without warning for complaining about the sex abuse.

Court documents say the incidents started in May 2017 and continued on an almost daily and repeated basis.

Chapman claims a therapeutic assistant who worked on her same unit and shift began flirting with her in a way that made her fearful and apprehensive, despite Chapman telling the man she was not interested in him.

The therapeutic assistant is not named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The accounts of sexual harassment escalated over the next few months, according to court documents.

In June 2017, court documents detail an encounter between Chapman and the man in the gym at the hospital.

"Once plaintiff walked in the gym, [the man] turned the lights off, pulled plaintiff towards him and started kissing plaintiff. Plaintiff attempted to pull away and reminded him he had promised he would not touch her. [The man] just laughed. Then he put his hand down plaintiff’s shirt, touched her breast, and tried to put his hand down plaintiff’s pants. Plaintiff pleaded with [the man] to stop and to let her go, but he would not. "

Court documents state that the man forced Chapman hand onto his genitals, and that Chapman tried to pull away, but the man was too strong and forced her to engage in a sexual act.

Chapman described how she felt terrified during the encounter as she grasped for air and could not breathe.

She said in court documents the harassment would occur on a repeated basis, anywhere from one to three times a week to several times a day.

In September 2017, Chapman claims she reported the incidents to her superiors and also to the Human Resources department.

By the next month, Chapman says she was granted a leave of absence from her job.

However, she says she was terminated in December of 2017 because “[the Defendant] falsely alleged plaintiff did not respond to communications with defendant and did not provide medical documentation to support her leave.”

The lawsuit claims there is evidence that the therapeutic assistant harassed as many as nine other female employees at MUSC, evidence the Head of Security at MUSC may have been aware of the man’s conduct, and evidence the man had been disciplined and/or terminated from prior jobs for alleged sexual harassment issues.

Chapman believes MUSC knew or should have known about the therapeutic assistant’s conduct and failed to stop it. MUSC officials said they do not comment on pending litigation.

Chapman also claims the man resigned from MUSC in the midst of her termination, and she has pressed criminal charges against him. The Charleston Police Department authorities say they do not have anything regarding this case.

Court documents state Chapman has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging discrimination and harassment based upon sex and retaliation.

She received a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" to sue from the EEOC in October 2018.

Those documents have been requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

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