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Suit Alleges Lehigh University Physician of Sexual Misconduct

A former health center staffer is suing Lehigh University for dismissing her from her job after she reported a physician’s sexually inappropriate behavior to school officials.

The lawsuit, filed by Christine Feit, a medical assistant, in a federal court on May 23 and made public last week alleges Dr. Thomas Novak of making inappropriate comments about her body, sexually harassing other staff members, conducting unnecessary breast exams on female students and touching pelvic areas without wearing gloves, The Infosurhoy reported.

The gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit alleges the university of not taking action, despite being aware of multiple complaints against Dr. Novak between 2012 and 2016.

“Feit’s co-workers told her that if she complained about Novak, nothing would be done by Lehigh, and Novak would alienate the complainer, so there was nothing to be accomplished by complaining,” the suit says.

Feit was fired in May 2017 for negligence in treating students, which she believes was really in response to reporting the physician.

On Friday, the university responded by suspending Novak and launching an investigation. A spokeswoman for Lehigh declined to comment on the pending litigation.

“We take allegations of harassment very seriously and make every effort to respond promptly and effectively. Though the university cannot comment on the specific allegations contained in this complaint, we plan to vigorously defend the matter,” spokeswoman Lori Friedman told The Morning Call.

Fiet is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

The university is already facing a similar lawsuit wherein Monica Miller, an associate professor of religion and Africana studies, accused the school of ignoring her complaints of sexual harassment by an English professor, James Braxton Peterson.

Miller claimed that the school was more concerned with maintaining its diverse image than the wellbeing of its faculty. Peterson resigned from Lehigh in January 2018 after an internal investigation found him involved in sexual misconduct. Court filings allege Peterson of sexually harassing Miller since 2013 when she was first hired by the university.

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