A Cook County jury has awarded $1 million to a doctor who
alleged Advocate Health had fired him from his post at Oak Lawn’s Advocate
Christ Medical Center in retaliation for his attempt to out a superior he
accused of being a “sexual predator” towards resident doctors at the hospital.
The Oct. 3 verdict ended a trial which began in late
September with a victory for Brett Ohlfs, a doctor who had worked in the
emergency department as an attending physician at the west suburban hospital
Ohlfs, now a California resident, had filed his retaliatory
discharge action in 2013 against Downers Grove-based Advocate, Illinois’
largest health care system, operating a dozen hospitals in the Chicago area and
elsewhere in the state.
In his lawsuit, Ohlfs had alleged he was fired two years
earlier after he had attempted to persuade hospital administration to launch an
investigation against another male attending physician, who he accused of
making improper sexual advances toward younger female resident doctors.
Ohlfs alleged he raised the issue on numerous occasions with
superiors, including Chintan Mistry, the doctor who served as chair of the
Christ Medical Center emergency department.
After several meetings which Ohlfs alleged produced no
action, he alleged Mistry threatened to fire him. In July 2011, Ohlfs was
Following his termination, Ohlfs took his case to the
Illinois Department of Human Rights, which concluded its investigation by
finding it believed Ohlfs may have been improperly fired in retaliation for his
attempt to blow the whistle, to no avail, on what he viewed as improper conduct
by a coworker.
Following that determination, Ohlfs filed suit in Cook
In response, Mistry and others at Advocate filed suit in
April 2016, claiming Ohlfs had surreptitiously recorded conversations and
meetings at which he had raised his concerns about his coworker, in violation
of Illinois’ eavesdropping laws.
They further accused Ohlfs of selectively editing those
recordings to “place Dr. Mistry and Advocate in a false light.”
Mistry and Advocate, however, dropped that lawsuit in
August. A judge at the same time denied Ohlfs’ motion for sanctions against
Mistry and Advocate for bringing the counteraction.
On Aug. 17, Cook County Circuit Judge John C. Griffin denied
an attempt by Advocate to end the case before it went to trial, denying the
health system’s motion for summary judgment. In that order, Griffin said there
were too many “genuine issues of material fact” yet to sort out in the case,
including whether Ohlfs was “opposing unlawful conduct in good faith” when he accused
his coworker of sexual harassment at a meeting in February 2011; questions
surrounding the timing of Ohlfs’ termination, relative to his complaint; and
whether Ohlfs was otherwise in good standing at his job at the time the
conflict began over his sexual harassment complaints.
“These findings should be left to a jury to decide,” the
According to its verdict, the jury of 11 people found Ohlfs had
“more likely than not … opposed that which he reasonably and in good faith
believed to be unlawful conduct” and that Advocate had “more likely than not …
retaliated against Dr. Ohlfs.”
Ohlfs was represented in the action and defended against the
counterclaim by attorneys Christina Hatzidakis, of Chicago, and Joseph Patrick
Wood, of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Advocate was represented by the firm of Smith Amundsen, of