A female employee at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday that she was sexually harassed by two superiors for two years.
The lawsuit claims the hospital was informed the employees were abusing their power in 2017 but did nothing to stop the harassment. The case was brought by an anonymous plaintiff, referred to as Jane Doe, who is a hospital employee represented by Honolulu attorney Jason Tani.
The defendants include the hospital; the hospital’s CEO, Timothy Roe; the hospital’s former medical director, Dr. Jason Chang; and former inpatient physical therapy manager Garrett Yamamoto, who was her direct supervisor.
In a different lawsuit last year brought by Chang against Rehab, the hospital said it was forced to close an entire division, affecting hundreds of patients, after Doe filed an internal complaint against Chang and went on indefinite leave.
The new lawsuit says between early 2017 and 2019, both Chang and Yamamoto “subjected Plaintiff to sexual discrimination and sexual harassment, including but not limited to sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature, on Rehab Hospital’s grounds during work hours.”
Tani compared the allegations to the sexual abuse claims against Punahou School and Kamehameha Schools.
“This is, to me, just another example of a large institution allowing and enabling men in positions of power to run amok and sexually harass and intimidate women with no consequences up until their recent termination,” he said.
“The Rehab Hospital leadership and its CEO Timothy Roe turned a blind eye to this sick, toxic culture of sexual harassment and now they’re trying to cover it up.”
The Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific is the state’s only hospital specifically dedicated to helping patients recovering from major illnesses and injuries.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the hospital is no longer eligible to receive grant funding from the state and seeks unspecified damages.
Eric Seitz, attorney for Chang, said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit when reached Thursday and did not want to comment.
Allegations of Harassment Denied
Chang last year filed a lawsuit against the hospital to prevent it from reporting him to a national oversight organization. In court documents, he acknowledged having a consensual relationship with Doe but denied the allegations of sexual harassment.
Jeff Portnoy, attorney for Yamamoto, said the allegations against his client are completely false and that Yamamoto never had a sexual relationship with the plaintiff.
“Somehow he has become a pawn in the battle between Ms. Doe and Rehab Hospital and Dr. Chang,” he said. “These Me Too complaints are pretty trendy and we’re going to establish that there was absolutely no sexual harassment on the part of my client.”
Roe, CEO of the hospital, said through a spokesman Thursday that he had not yet reviewed the lawsuit. But he said he encourages all employees to report harassment so that the hospital can “take appropriate action.”
Roe previously told Civil Beat that he first learned of the allegations when two employees, including Doe, filed complaints against Chang in March 2019.
The hospital conducted an internal investigation and Chang was suspended. He was later fired as chief medical officer and resigned as a physician. Yamamoto was terminated, Portnoy said.
“We are confident that we took all of the necessary steps to stop sexual harassment as soon as it was reported it to us. We also took all appropriate measures to prevent sexual harassment with training for all of our managers and supervisors,” Roe said in his statement Thursday.
“Our hearts go out to the employee, but we are saddened that this complaint has been filed against the hospital. We hope to resolve this so that we can continue to devote our full attention to caring for patients and filling the community’s need for quality rehabilitation services.”
Details Of The Lawsuit
The plaintiff is a physical therapist who is currently program director for Advanced Rehabilitation Technologies at the hospital. She graduated from Punahou and the lawsuit says her position at the hospital was her dream job.
Her career advanced steadily, the complaint describes, until early 2017 when she started getting sexually harassed by Chang and Yamamoto.
The complaint cites a former colleague, Joycelyn Brigoli, who says in a sworn statement that in 2017 she told Rehab Hospital’s human resources director Tina Kobatake that Chang and Yamamoto were abusing their power by frequently requesting free private physical therapy services from Doe during work hours.
Brigoli says she told Kobatake that’s one reason she left the hospital.
Rehab’s 2019 internal investigation into Chang concluded he had likely sexually harassed the plaintiff.
In a letter to Chang last spring, the hospital said he “allegedly engaged in sexual harassment, intimidation and retaliation against at least three female staff members within the last 2.5 years” and noted that Chang had previously undergone counseling in response to complaints against him.
Prior to filing this lawsuit, Tani attended two unsuccessful mediation meetings with the hospital’s attorney, Anna Elento-Sneed.
Tani says his client has post-traumatic stress disorder from her experience and is currently on paid leave.
Chang is working at Hawaii Pacific Neuroscience less than a mile away from Rehab Hospital. Yamamoto is working as a physical therapist in Honolulu.
Source: CIVIL BEAT