Doctor let go for sexual harassment loses €700,000 lawsuit against Maastricht hospital
Maastricht University Medical Center (MUMC+) was spared from paying nearly 700,000 euros in compensation to a doctor who was dismissed due to transgressive behavior, including sexual harassment. Nearly all of his demands were rejected by a civil court in Limburg earlier this month.
The doctor was a neonatologist, specializing in the care of premature babies. He had been employed at the teaching hospital since 2006 and was appointed as a professor in 2011. He earned a gross monthly salary of over 16,000 euros, including his time conducting laboratory research and supervising young trainee doctors and students.
Over the years, the hospital received many complaints about the behavior of the doctor, whose name was redacted from the recent ruling. In 2012, a year after becoming a tenured professor, he was forced to follow a coaching program due to his violent outbursts at work. In 2015, his collaboration with the pediatrics laboratory was ended due to more complaints from students about his behavior.
He was also accused of harassment by one of the students under his supervision. He reportedly presented her with unsolicited gifts, invited her to go out to dinner numerous times, sent her ambiguous text messages, called her frequently, and appeared at her home when she did not answer. She said he also put money in her mailbox intended for her rent and confessed his love for her and his desire to marry her.
In 2017, the doctor was asked to attend another behavioral training program with the same coach, but two years later, the coach gave up. The coach told the hospital hi could not convince the doctor to change his attitude, adding that it was the first time he was unable to even lead someone in the right direction.
A different form of ill-behavior towards colleagues also surfaced that year, the court noted in its ruling. "In the spring of 2019, [the doctor] submitted a joint scientific article for publication, without the consent of the various co-authors and researchers and without taking into account their substantive objections," the court wrote.
The following May, he was also accused of acting inappropriately towards a young trainee doctor. He was given an official written warning for this, as well, the hospital said.
His work performance was also criticized. He reportedly often came late to work or did not show up at all. He regularly swore and shouted at coworkers when things did not go as planned. He also behaved inappropriately with female colleagues and PhD students, insisting on private discussions in rooms where they would be left alone, despite the women expressing discomfort about the situation.
The MUMC+ ultimately suspended the doctor in October 2020, and an investigation followed. Two weeks later, the doctor called in sick and was admitted to a specialized clinic in Germany. He stayed in the clinic from November 2020 to February 2021 and from August 2021 to October 2021, all the while remaining on the hospital's payroll.
It was mutually agreed in a settlement that the two sides should part ways, the court said. The agreement to end the contract was dated December 2022.
Despite this, the doctor took legal action and demanded 689,378 euros in compensation “for unjustified loss of employment." The court said the man did not explain why he demanded this specific amount.
The court rejected his demand, ruling that the termination of employment was by mutual consent in the form of a legally-binding settlement. The court added that his inappropriate behavior towards his female colleagues constituted sufficient grounds for the hospital to pursue his termination, which likely would have been upheld. Additionally, his behavior towards students and employees led to an end in his collaborations with both the neonatology department and the pediatrics laboratory. This included "unfair treatment of the employees," the court said. "This would also be sufficient grounds for granting MUMC+'s request for dissolution."
While the hospital will not have to pay the compensation the doctor demanded, they are obliged to pay approximately 12,400 euros plus interest to cover his unused vacation days.