Munster doctor sued over sexual harassment, Medicare fraud accusations

Physician says lawsuit is baseless
2009-11-18T00:05:00Z Munster doctor sued over sexual harassment, Medicare fraud accusationsBy Dan Hinkel - dan.hinkel@nwi.com, (219) 852-4317 nwitimes.com
November 18, 2009 12:05 am  • 

HAMMOND | A new federal lawsuit claims Dr. Alex Stemer, CEO of Munster's Medical Specialists Centers of Indiana, sexually harassed one his company's managers, then fired her after she resisted his advances and opposed his alleged plan to commit Medicare fraud.

Stemer said the accusations made by Sally Gibbs, of River Forest, Ill., are false. He said he was "stunned" Tuesday to hear about the suit.

"The lawsuit is baseless, and I believe will be proven to be baseless in court," Stemer said.

"Perhaps it's because of the job market that people are seeking someone to blame for their own problems."

In the lawsuit filed Monday in Hammond federal court, Gibbs claims she was the company's CEO from 2002 to 2003, the year she took maternity leave. When she returned, she was demoted to chief operating officer and Stemer was her supervisor, according to the lawsuit.

Gibbs accuses Stemer of making unwelcome sexual remarks to her throughout her employment with the company, which ended in 2008. The suit claims Stemer told Gibbs at a business luncheon that he felt most of the people at the luncheon thought the two were having an affair. The suit claims Stemer told Gibbs, "I can feel your blood running through my veins," and "our organs should be connected."

The lawsuit accuses Stemer of backing Gibbs onto a credenza, telling her he cared for her and moving in for a kiss. Gibbs rejected the advance, and Stemer stormed off, according to the lawsuit.

Gibbs made clear to Stemer his "remarks were inappropriate and unappreciated," the suit claims.

Gibbs also accuses Stemer of making "plans to obtain higher Medicare reimbursement rates by falsifying medical records and by billing for services that were not actually provided." The lawsuit claims Gibbs resisted this alleged scheme.

Stemer said Tuesday that allegation, like the sex harassment claim, is "without any basis in fact or truth whatsoever." Stemer has never been charged criminally in any federal fraud scheme.

Gibbs claims she was fired in 2008 for resisting Stemer's advances, for opposing the alleged scheme and because she made a worker's compensation claim over an alleged neck injury she sustained on the job. Gibbs filed a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but her lawyer requested the EEOC give Gibbs leave to file a private lawsuit after the EEOC took no action on the claim within 180 days. The EEOC granted the request.

Gibbs' Chicago-based lawyer, Kerry Saltzman, said he believes the evidence for Gibbs' claims extends beyond Gibbs' account of Stemer's alleged conduct.

Medical Specialists runs offices across Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

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