Dr. Brett Ohlfs used to be an ER doctor for Oak Lawn Hospital. He claimed that he was fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Dr. Ohlfs believed that a fellow ER physician was sexually harassing the female residents (doctors in training.) This other doctor had purportedly made sexual advances towards the women, showed them naked pictures of himself, and coerced them into have sexual relationships with him. Dr. Ohlfs was particularly concerned about the authority the other doctor had over these residents.
Dr. Ohlfs reported the conduct to hospital administrators. He claimed that the hospital dismissed his report and eventually dismissed him. Dr. Ohlfs sued. It was a particularly contentious lawsuit as the hospital also sued Dr. Ohlfs for secretly recording conversations with his department head; and the hospital also asserted that it was investigating Dr. Ohlfs in connection with the care of one of his patients. The Illinois agency charged with handling discrimination claims investigated and found “substantial evidence” of wrongful termination. The jury confirmed this finding with its verdict of $1 million.
The hospital, owned by Advocate HealthCare, has not yet decided whether to appeal. However, it does assert that it investigated Dr. Ohlfs’ report of harassment at the time that it was made. The investigation revealed that no further action was warranted. The doctor accused of sexual harassment still works for the hospital. Advocate has continued to assert that it fired Dr. Ohlfs for non-discriminatory and legitimate reasons.