BRATTLEBORO — A lawsuit filed against the Brattleboro Retreat by a former nurse is going to trial in federal court.
During a virtual, pre-trial conference on Wednesday, attorneys for Elizabeth Dignitti, who worked at the Retreat for 10 years before being terminated, said all the required mediation had been conducted and no resolution was reached.
“There has been some follow-up and I’m sure we will continue to be in touch if there is any movement in that area,” said Aimee Goddard of Windham Law in Brattleboro.
In court documents filed in May 2020, attorneys for Dignitti claimed she was fired after filing a complaint about jokes of a sexual nature made about a male nurse, Edward Dowd, who was also a union representative. The jokes were made during a meeting with Chief Nursing Officer Meghan Baston and a number of other managers and directors at the Retreat, states the suit.
“Dignitti was appalled by the sexual jokes and she was equally concerned about the target of the harassment,” John Mabie, of Windham Law in Brattleboro, wrote in the suit. “Ms. Dignitti was aware that Dowd was a central and vocal member of the employees’ Union and she was particularly concerned that this sexually aggressive conversation was being directed at Mr. Dowd, by members of management at a time when the Retreat was engaged in a contentious contract negotiation with the employees’ Union.”
Dignitti was clinical nurse manager under the supervision of Baston, who resigned last November.
Dignitti claimed Baston was “constantly curt, dismissive, and cold” to her, but after she filed a complaint about the jokes directed at Dowd, Baston became “increasingly cold and hostile” to her.
Dignitti was fired on Nov. 11, 2019. Her memorandum of termination noted “code of conduct violations.”
Dowd told the Reformer last year he filed a complaint with the Retreat upon hearing about the comments that were made. He alleged the comments were a violation of the Retreat’s code of ethics. Dowd said an outside investigator concluded there was no violation because the discussion happened in private and didn’t affect Dowd’s employment.
U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss told attorneys for Dignitti and the Retreat on Wednesday that the jury will consist of six members with one alternate. Some witnesses will be allowed to testify online, but Reiss assured the attorneys that all appropriate measures are being taken by the court to protect the participants in the courtroom from COVID-19.
A spokesman for the Retreat said the Retreat does not comment on pending litigation. A date for the trial has not yet been set.