A federal judge will decide whether a McMinnville, Tenn., nursing company did anything to stop an 800-pound male client who groped and demanded sexual favors from nurses for more than a year and fired a nurse who complained.
Former Nurse One/Team One employee Renee Neal filed a civil lawsuit in September 2009, alleging that the company required her to work as a home nurse with a client after he had repeatedly sexually groped and propositioned her and other female nurses in his McMinnville home, according to court records.
After Neal complained and warned another female nurse of Stanley Slatten's conduct, she was required to write a letter of apology to Slatten, records show, and shortly after she sent the letter, Nurse One fired her.
U.S. Federal Magistrate Bill Carter met privately with both parties Tuesday. Results of the mediation were not available and may not be made public, pending attorney filings.
Neither the attorneys, Neal, Slatten nor Nurse One owner Kim Ray could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Court documents filed by Nurse One's attorneys deny all of the charges, but acknowledge that, beginning in February 2006, the company provided home health care for Slatten, "who was morbidly obese with limited mobility, homebound patient weight approximately 800 pounds."
The documents also say that Neal was fired for "outwardly discussing a patient's case with another employee and a patient other than Stanley Slatten."
Neal filed the lawsuit with the help of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which represents her and a "class of female employees" subjected to harassment by Slatten.
Court documents show that EEOC attorneys are seeking back pay for the women and for the court to "correct unlawful employment practices." A 2009 EEOC press release noted that the sexual harassment violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the release, Memphis District Office Director Katharine W. Kores said, "There is no excuse for knowingly and repeatedly subjecting female employees to a sexually hostile and abusive work environment."
The original complaint details Slatten's repeated verbal, physical and sexual harassment over the course of 10 months when Neal took care of him for 12 hours a day, two to three days each week.
On the first day Neal cared for Slatten in February 2006, she said he grabbed her breast and groped her privates, "asking for sexual favors."
Court documents state that, in August 2006, Slatten threw a sex toy at Neal and shouted, "Why don't you and [the other female nursing assistant assigned to the client's home] use this?"
On other occasions, Slatten insisted nurses wash his genitals repeatedly "to the point of sexual stimulation" and asked them to "get into bed with him and watch pornography on TV."
When Neal complained about Slatten's behavior to Nurse One, she claims she was told, "Nurses have to put up with that."
Slatten requested only female certified nursing assistants, and Nurse One "continued to cycle a class of female employees into his home, knowingly subjecting them to sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, and a sexually hostile work environment," documents state.
Neal and other female nurses filed 25 written reports of Slatten's abusive behavior, documents state.
Contact staff writer Todd South at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347.