Former nurse raped by supervisor sues SNF, parent company

A former nurse at a Colorado skilled nursing facility has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was raped by a supervisor whose history of sexual harassment was known when he was hired.

The suit, filed Friday, claims that Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Aurora, CO and its parent company Nexion Health Inc. hired Benjamin Offei as a nursing supervisor in 2014 after he had been fired from a Minnesota hospital over two sexual harassment claims. The lawsuit alleges that Offei and Betsey Reid, administrator at Cherry Creek, were friends and that Reid should have been aware of the circumstances of Offei's firing, according to the Denver Post.

Offei reportedly began sexually harassing and touching members of the nursing staff at Cherry Creek shortly after he was hired. Five employees went to the facility's human resources director about Offei's conduct beween December 2014 and January 2015, but were told action could not be taken against him unless the reports were filed in writing. None of the women filed written reports out of fear of retaliation, according to the lawsuit.

The suit argues that all but one of the nursing staff who complained about Offei's conduct were fired within weeks of making the complaint; the one exception was a nurse who died unexpectedly in March 2015.

“Despite being on notice of Offei's unwelcome sexual behavior toward his subordinates and the unreasonable risk of harm he posed to employees whom he supervised, defendants chose to take no action whatsoever, and continued employing Offei as [the victim's] direct supervisor,” the lawsuit reads.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit said she was sexually assaulted by Offei on Jan. 13, 2015, and was raped by him two days later. She alleges being falsely accused of stealing drugs from the facility the same day that she was raped, and subsequently being put on leave and fired as retaliation.

Cherry Creek suspended Offei, who later resigned from the facility, but it did not report the rape allegations to the Colorado Board of Nursing, the suit claims.

In a statement to McKnight's Brian Lee, general counsel for Nexion, said that the facility is limited to commenting on the allegations since litigation is pending.

“Cherry Creek does, however, take all allegations of sexual harassment extremely seriously and we do not tolerate such conduct toward any person at any level,” Lee said. “The nurses and staff at Cherry Creek Nursing Center continue to be dedicated to providing quality care to our residents.”

Offei was convicted on two counts of sexual assault in August 2016. He currently remains in jail on intensive probation, which can span between 10 years and life, the Post reported.

The lawsuit also details other instances of “widespread sexual assault” by employees of Cherry Creek, including one case where a certified nursing assistant sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl who was volunteering at the facility.

The suit accuses the provider and Nexion of discrimination and retaliation, and seeks back pay, future pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees for the employee.