CEO of health center resigns over handling of sex harassment complaints against doctor

The CEO of a Massachusetts health center resigned yesterday under pressure following a report that he allowed a prominent doctor to stay on the job for years despite allegations he sexually harassed and bullied staff members.

As complaints of sexual harassment continue to cost prominent people in politics, media and business their jobs, Stephen L. Boswell, M.D., CEO of the Boston-based Fenway Community Health Center, resigned under pressure from the board of directors, employees and donors, according to The Boston Globe.

The resignation, after 20 years as head of the center, came two days after a report by the newspaper that the health center allowed a former doctor, Harvey J. Makadon, to continue working there for four years after an employee filed a complaint of sexual harassment against him in 2013.

The executive committee of the center’s board of directors issued a statement Sunday that Boswell had agreed to end his employment immediately and that it would begin the search for a successor.

“Fenway Health is bigger than any single person,” the board said in the statement, though it did not mention the reasons behind Boswell’s departure.

The Globe investigated allegations against Makadon and, after interviews with current and former employees at the center and a review of documents, reported that he allegedly sexually harassed at least three male employees at the center and bullied both male and female co-workers. The center specializes in providing healthcare for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Makadon denied he sexually harassed co-workers, according to the Globe report.

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Boswell said in a statement to the newspaper that in retrospect he would have handled the complaints differently, but said he disciplined Makadon when his conduct came to his attention.

The resignation comes after weeks of media attention focused on the accusations of sexual misconduct among Hollywood heavy hitters, television personalities and politicians.

Those recent high-profile cases offers lessons for healthcare leaders, including that they must investigate any complaints, even if they involve a high-profile physician. Leaders must establish policies that address disruptive behavior and develop an action plan to address complaints, including sexual harassment claims.