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Steward Healthcare CEO named in US lawsuit by former company executive

Steward Healthcare Joseph Muscat
Steward Healthcare CEO Ralph de la Torre (centre, right) meeting Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (centre, left). Photo: DOI / Wonnacott

A former top executive at Steward Health Care has sued the company for harassment and discrimination, naming chairman and CEO Ralph de la Torre in a lawsuit filed on Monday in the US, according to court documents obtained by The Boston Globe.

Claudia Henderson, Steward’s former senior vice president of human resources, said she was subject to sexual and racial comments that were part of an overall management culture that demeaned women and blacks.

Steward Healthcare is entrusted with the running of three of Malta’s public hospitals: Gozo, St Luke’s and Karin Grech hospitals. The Malta hospitals concession awarded to Vitals less than two years ago was effectively transferred to Steward Healthcare on 16 February. Many questions on the controversial deal remain unanswered.

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Henderson said the alleged the harassment began in 2012 when  she was tasked to work with the company’s head of the hospitals division, Joshua Putter. In 2016, she was given the job of integrating the human resources departments of the eight hospitals Steward was buying from a company called Community Health Systems.

When she expressed her concern about Putter to a Steward executive, Henderson claimed that the leadership at the company retaliated against her by demoting her and hiring a white man to take over her former position. She said executive management proceeded to ask her to resign in January, according to court documents.

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Henderson said in court documents the company culture was one “in which the management team, consisting predominately of white men, has little tolerance or respect for persons outside of that group, and abundant tolerance for sexual and racial harassment and discrimination’’.

Lawyers for Steward Health Care disputed Henderson’s claims to The Boston Globe, stating “the allegations are completely unfounded”.

 

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