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Women sue Allina, claiming harassment // Seven women allege sexualharassment at

an Allina clinic. The accused doctor denies the allegations.


H.J. Cummins; Staff Writer
Publication Date: February 14,
2007 Page: 01D Section: BUSINESS Edition: METRO
Seven women are accusing a family doctor at the Allina Woodlake
Clinic of more than a decade of lewd and harassing treatment, and
they're blaming their employer, the Allina Medical System, for not
stopping it.

In a federal lawsuit filed early this month against Allina and


the physician, the seven nurses and office workers allege dozens of
lewd comments, groping and assault incidents by Dr. Donald Blowers.
They also claim retaliation instead of support at work after they
reported problems to supervisors, clinic psychologists, the human
resources department and the "Allina Integrity" help line.

Blowers, named one of Minnesota's "Top Doctors" by Mpls. St. Paul


Magazine in its January issue, denied the allegations in an
interview Tuesday. He has left the clinic and is preparing a legal
response to be filed later this week.

Allina would comment only generally on its procedures.

"Anytime allegations of this sort are made, we take them


extremely seriously," spokesman David Kanihan said. "We always
follow up, as we have done and will do in this case."

Twin Cities-based Allina comprises 11 hospitals and more than 60


clinics, including Woodlake in Richfield. It is represented in this
lawsuit by the Twin Cities law firm of Felhaber Larson Fenlon &
Vogt.

The women's attorney, Lori Peterson of Minneapolis, said, "This


is probably the worst case of longstanding abuse and cover-up by a
major institution that I've seen in 16 years of practice."

Gregg Corwin, Blowers' attorney in St. Louis Park, said: "The


doctor is a highly rated physician, with an excellent reputation.
Like everything else, there's another side to the story."

Multiple allegations

The seven plaintiffs are Carolyn Eckerson, Chelsea Fredrickson,


Cheryl Gough, Kathy Iverson, Julie Morgan, Tina Tindall and Peggy
Wilson.

Through Peterson, they declined to be interviewed.

The plaintiffs claim violations of state and federal


discrimination and whistle-blower laws, dating to 1995. The
complaint alleges explicit comments by Blowers about his body, the
women's bodies and sex acts, creating a hostile work environment.
It also alleges assaults such as groping and throwing objects at
one woman. Finally, it alleges retaliation, including sudden
declines in their work evaluations, and a transfer of Tindall to a
lower-paying job.

Tindall has since left Allina, Peterson said. Morgan moved to


another Allina location, and the other five remain at Woodlake, she
said.

The suit seeks discipline for any misdeeds, up to and including


termination, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for the
women's physical and emotional suffering, Peterson said.

"This [suit] is an absolute last resort for them," Peterson said.


"They spent a decade making complaints, and finally it was just too
much."

30 years in medicine

Blowers, 59, said a key to his defense is a good reputation over


30 years in practice, "in the community, among my peers and
colleagues, and certainly my patients."

Corwin said the complaint is too general, lacking a clear


chronology or attribution of specific allegations to specific
women, raising doubt about what really happened.

"We're going to deny virtually all the allegations," he said.


"Our position is there's not a lawsuit here, there is not sexual
harassment."

Woodlake has 75 employees, Corwin said, "and there will be a lot


of people at the clinic who will provide statements very favorable
to [Blowers]."

Dr. Jack Beaird, an internist at the clinic, probably won't be on


that list.

In a letter to an Allina board member, referred to in the women's


complaint, Beaird wrote: "There is a serious problem at Woodlake
Clinic that is being covered up by the Allina administration. ...
If we don't fix this sordid mess ourselves, we will likely soon be
hearing about [it] in the news."