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Paramedic files lawsuit against Denver Health alleging harassment, discrimination due to sexual orientation

'They allowed it,': Complaint alleges harassment, discrimination of gay paramedic
Posted at 7:05 AM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 09:05:56-04

DENVER — Jordan Christensen has found a new career, but he said not a day goes by when he doesn't think about his old one.

"There's nothing that can replace taking care of someone or taking care of a loved one," Christensen said, as tears welled in his eyes.

Christensen, a former Denver Health paramedic, said he was employed at Denver Health from Aug. 14, 2012 through his termination on Jan. 8, 2021. He's now filed a lawsuit alleging he faced ongoing harassment and discrimination from his superiors in Denver Health's Paramedic Division, because he's gay.

Christensen, speaking first to Denver7, said most of the harassment began after he posted on social media about his identity.

"I always felt nervous for my job, and I always felt like I was doing something wrong," he said. "I felt humiliated in front of my coworkers many times. It was embarrassing to be singled out."

In one example, the complaint alleges Lt. Christopher Pattinson would mock his clothing. Pattinson is accused of saying to Christensen, "Do they make those pants in a man's size?"

VIDEO: Former Denver Health paramedic's attorney reacts to superior's actions

In late August, Pattinson was charged with stealing vials of fentanyl from the hospital and terminated. He has pleaded not guilty.

"He would make snarky and snide comments," Christensen said.

The court document states another superior disparaged Christensen by saying, "Oh that's right, you wouldn't have kids." The complaint accuses that same superior of flashing a "white power" hand sign in a photo taken during an awards ceremony for a Black paramedic.

VIDEO: Former Denver Health paramedic discusses superior's display of 'white power' hand sign

"This culture of discrimination, retaliation, sexism, racism, needs to stop," Christensen said.

The former paramedic also accused his superiors of subjecting him to repeated disciplinary actions when other paramedics received none. The complaint states that in 2019, Denver Health brought in an outside investigator to look into employees' complaints. The complaint goes on to say the outside investigator, "encouraged Mr. Christensen to complain to the Defendant's HR department and retain counsel due to the ongoing harassment." Upon doing so, Christensen alleges his complaints weren't kept in confidence, the harassment became worse and Denver Health failed to address the matters.

"It was so egregious to the extent to that Mr. Christensen started waiting in his car and hiding in his car before he went into work so he didn't have to deal with that type of harassment," said Spencer Kontnik, Christensen's attorney.

Kontnik said Denver Health violated several of its own policies by turning a "blind eye" to the situation.

In May, Dr. Katie Bakes filed a lawsuit against the hospital system alleging retaliation for speaking out against racial discrimination. Since 2017, there have been at least three other lawsuits filed by former Denver Health employees, one of which was a whistle-blower complaint.

"We want Denver Health to be held accountable for what it did," Kontnik said. "We would like Mr. Christensen to be compensated for the pain, suffering and anguish that he had to go through on a day-to-day basis for several years. We also want to make sure he is compensated for the monetary loss. He lost his career. He lost his profession."

The attorney said he's also hoping to present Christensen's case before a jury.

The suit says the mistreatment culminated with Christensen's firing on Jan. 8, 2021 after the manner in which he treated a patient was called into question. Christensen alleges the patient's treatment was performed in front of his superiors.

VIDEO: Former Denver Health paramedic discusses days leading up to his termination

"I was treating a patient with superiors, including Lt. Chris Pattinson," he said. "That call was brought into investigation. I was brought up to discuss that call by myself without them, and I was terminated. We were all three actively treating the exact same patient who ultimately walked out of the hospital, gave us a hug and actually thanked us for the treatment that we provided her."

Christensen said his inspiration to become a paramedic came from the book, The Knife and Gun Club. The book details imagery and descriptions from the emergency room of the former Denver General Hospital, which is now Denver Health Medical Center. Now, when Christensen flips through the book's pages, he said it reminds him "his career was "taken."

"There was no greater gift as a paramedic than to help deliver babies or care for a child," he said through tears. "There's was no greater feeling than to know parents trusted us to care for their children to the best of our abilities."

A spokesperson for Denver Health said the hospital system couldn't comment on pending litigation.