Lehigh University doctor suspended amid sexual misconduct allegations

 

A Lehigh University doctor has been suspended amid allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, the school said Friday.

A federal lawsuit claims Dr. Thomas Novak gave inappropriate breast exams and made lewd comments about students and staff.

The school said Novak was suspended and restricted from campus, effective immediately, as officials conduct an investigation into the allegations.

"We take seriously any allegations of harassment, and are committed to creating an environment that is safe and welcoming," Lehigh University said in a statement.

The former health center employee who filed the lawsuit also claims she was fired for reporting the Novak's repeated sexual misconduct and behavior.

Christine Feit, who worked as a medical assistant at Lehigh from 2008-2017, said Novak routinely made comments about female students he thought were "hot" and inappropriately performed breast exams on students, according to the lawsuit filed May 22.

Feit said she always had to hand Novak gloves during pelvic exams because "he would attempt to proceed without them as per protocol," the suit says.

In one incident, a nursing supervisor asked Feit if Novak was "copping a feel" with students. When Feit said yes, the supervisor said "it's good to know it's the first exam for these girls" so they don't realize something's wrong, according to the suit.

In another instance, Novak told Feit and another coworker not to schedule him with any "fat or ugly chicks," the lawsuit says. When Feit reported the incident to her supervisor and said she could not schedule any female students with him, she was stripped of her job duty of scheduling patients.

The lawsuit also alleges Novak repeatedly made lewd comments to Feit and her coworkers, would "brush his body" against Feit during gynecological exams, and made sexual statements about his wife, celebrities and coworkers.

Feit said she and other employees repeatedly reported his behavior to her superiors and Lehigh University. Novak would break down in tears and apologize for his behavior, but Feit claims nothing else was done.

Feit said she was eventually fired for medical errors "based on knowingly and intentionally untrue facts."

Feit is suing Lehigh University on counts of gender discrimination and retaliation, and is asking for lost and anticipated wages, reinstatement and damages for emotional distress.