Clinic hit with lawsuits

Since February, six Partnership Health Center staffers have filed lawsuits alleging a range of grievances against the Missoula clinic including harassment, wrongful discharge and that management required employees to perform tasks without pay.

"We consider this to be a serious and pervasive problem in this workplace and felt that we had a responsibility to file these lawsuits," says Great Falls attorney Elizabeth Best, who represents the plaintiffs in six separate cases.

Partnership provides health care and dental services to roughly 10,000 patients each year and more than half of those patients are uninsured. Missoula County helps facilitate Partnership services and is named as a co-defendant in all six cases.

Among the most serious complaints against the clinic comes from Partnership dentist Adam Jensen, who alleges in his lawsuit that Executive Director Kim Mansch "has worked to establish and sanction a culture of fear and intimidation" by "screaming at employees, yelling obscenities, calling employees derogatory names."

Mansch denies that she's fostered a hostile workplace and declined to comment further about the lawsuits other than to say, "People at Partnership work really, really hard."

Jensen also claims that the clinic is understaffed. That complaint is echoed by former Partnership receptionist Shawnel Trenary, who says she was required to carry a "crushing workload" and that management threatened her with discipline if she didn't keep up. According to her lawsuit, "Almost 100 calls were being missed on a daily basis."

One-time medical records coordinator Lisa Nelson and Partnership dental practice manager Patricia Morgan say in their respective lawsuits that the clinic forced them to work unpaid overtime. Both allege that they were subjected to a hostile work environment. Those complaints mirror ones brought by former Medical Director Alison Forney-Gorman and pharmacist Lorraine Rowe-Conlan, who also allege that they were unlawfully discharged from their positions.

Missoula County Risk Manager Hal Luttschwager says the county hasn't been served with the five most recent lawsuits, which were all filed May 3. (Rowe-Conlan filed suit February 27.) He adds that none of the claims have been substantiated. "It's so easy to raise lots of allegations," Luttschwager says.

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