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Two health care professionals seek to file lawsuit over alleged harassment by doctor at Lansing clinic

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Two health care professionals allege they faced retaliation at a Lansing clinic after reporting sexual harassment by a doctor of osteopathic medicine.

Nurse practitioner Alexis Phillips and Dr. Sarah Denham have filed discrimination complaints through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeking the right to sue in federal court, their attorneys say.

That’s after they say they were subjected to frequent harassment from Dr. Joseph Kozlowski while working alongside him at Kozmic Family Practice, which is part of Capital Internal Medicine Associates.

That included sexually inappropriate comments, sometimes in the presence of other staff, Phillips said. And she said Kozlowski twice grabbed her by the belt loop while making vulgar comments about her body.

Phillips said Kozlowski first made an inappropriate remark to her when she was a student in 2018, but that when she reported his escalating conduct in 2021, the reaction was not reassuring.

"I would like to be able to provide quality health care to my patients while also not having to protect them from seeing sexual harassment every time they come in for treatment," Phillips said. "I'm scared to come into work, because I don't know what's going to happen. But, regardless of what happens, I know that my employer does not support me."

After Phillips and Denham complained about Kozlowksi's conduct, Dr. Amit Ghose threatened to shut the clinic down and nurse practitioner Kristal Richardson-Aubrey later suggested Phillips could switch locations if she felt uncomfortable working alongside Kozlowski, Phillips said during a news conference Tuesday.

After learning Phillips and Denham had acquired legal representation, CIMA announced in January of this year that Kozlowski planned to retire, Phillips said. He continued to see patients at their homes and during telehealth visits until April 2022, according to Phillips.

A spokesman for CIMA said Kozlowski hasn't been employed by the organization since March, but declined to comment on the circumstances of his departure, citing "employment law and pending litigation."

"We are confident that CIMA management took the necessary and appropriate steps to create and maintain a safe and compliant workplace," the statement said. "We look forward to defending ourselves in the appropriate venue against these accusations. Going forward, we’ll continue to ensure access to quality healthcare for the thousands of patients our professionals see annually around Lansing."

Kozlowski did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Both Denham and Phillips are still employed by the health care system.

"I'm exhausted at the beginning of the day going into work for people who don't care about my mental or physical safety," Phillips said.

Sarah Lehr joined WKAR in June of 2021 in the role of politics and civics reporter.
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