Monday, May 22, 2006

Caritas CEO Reprimanded For Conduct that Got Other Employees Fired

The Boston Globe just published several articles about the the Boston-area Caritas Christi Health Care System, and especially the conduct of its CEO, Dr Robert M Haddad.

The background, per the Globe, is that Caritas has had a tumultuous few years. Cardinal Sean P O'Malley "fired longtime leader Dr Michael Collins for undisclosed reasons...." in 2004. He then "replaced him with interim president Emmet C Murphy, a healthcare consultant whom O'Malley had hired to evaluate the system and who was advocating for changes. But soon after, Murphy disclosed his departure after Globe reporters asked him to explain several discrepancies in his official biography." But, "since taking over as chief executive two years ago, Dr Robert M Haddad had begun to turn around the financially precarious Caritas Christi Health Care System."

Yesterday, the Globe reported, "Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley last week decided to privately reprimand Caritas Christi Health Care System's president, Dr. Robert M. Haddad, for multiple instances of kissing and other physical touching involving four women employees...."

However, this action was insufficient, according to Helen G Drinan, senior vice president for human resources. She had advised the Cardinal that "Caritas had 'always fired other employees who have engaged in similar behavior. She also advised him that both she and Jean Musiker, an outside lawyer who was brought in to conduct an independent inquiry, concluded that Hadda violated federal workplace law, as well as the written sexual harassment prohibitions at Caritas Christi...." Caritas' policy defines sexual harassment as including "'unnecessary touching of an individual, e.g., patting, pinching, hugging, repeated brushing against another person's body.' The policy is signed by Haddad."

Further, Drinan wrote, "I cannot stand aside or participate in an effort to protect the institution and its powerful leader [Haddad] as priority over compassion for those injured by shameful and inexcusable conduct." She warned, "I know what will befall this organization when the public learns that the Church in Boston has once again put the powerful predator ahead of the powerless victim."

Today, the Globe added that "the [Caritas] board was told Thursday that there were more than the four women involved." Further, "one of the board members said yesterday that he felt misled after he learned in yesterday's globe that Caritas Christi had fired other men for similar behavior." A list provided by Drinan "shows that five man were dismissed between 2003 and 2005 for various incidents involving kissing or hugging. One case, in 2004, involved a senior physician who kissed and hugged a senior clinician. There was just one victim in each of the five cases."

This is just another example that the leaders of large health care organizations are different from you and me. They need not follow the rules imposed on less influential employees (even if they, as in this case, signed the rules themselves.)

This case is unusual in that the rules involved were about sex, not money. The definition of sexual harassment used in this institution may be controversial. However, the issue is the Caritas rules were allegedly enforced differently when their object was not a staff member, or even a "senior physician," but the CEO.

But until we finally discredit the culture of the "imperial," make that despotic CEO, such abuses will continue.

ADDENDUM (May 26, 2006) - After the Boston Globe articles mentioned above got wide attention, the Caritas Christi Health Care System Board reconsidered, and forced Haddad to resign, again according to the Globe.

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