Melbourne drug rehab center accused of firing employee who reported harassment

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A Melbourne drug rehab center is facing allegations it failed to adequately respond to allegations of sexual harassment from a client and fired the employee who reported the incidents.

When a client seeking drug treatment reported harassment of an employee, she was removed from the treatment program and her associated sober lifestyle.

St. John’s Recovery Place officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday morning.

Complaints have been filed internally and with DCF against South Florida-based St. John’s Recovery Place, which operates a location on Silver Palm Avenue in Melbourne, have been filed both internally with the company and from the Florida Department of Children and Families. lawyer Jessica J. Travis issued a statement about her client’s dismissal from the treatment center.

“My client was kicked out of St. John’s Recovery Place – a provider of care and therapy – after complaining about being sexually harassed. This is unlawful retaliation,” Travis said. “In addition to doing things right with my client, St. John’s Recovery Place needs to make sure that the person who did this is fired. They also need to put in place rules to prevent the victim from blaming and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. ”

The report

According to the report filed with DCF, the accused employee came to her room several times a day and made several sexual remarks at a time when the client was in quarantine at a hotel due to COVID-19.

The employee, who is still listed as an employee on the SJRP website, allegedly offered the customer to ride in his personal vehicle and attempted to extract nude photos in return for the favor, according to reports. He also offered to help the client with household chores as part of an obscene sex exchange, according to reports.

A report filed with DCF on September 2 also alleges the employee, who works in billing and insurance with the company, had access to Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid use disorders. , and was distributing the pills to a patient without permission.

Dennis Kolsch, the former Recovery Place employee who reported the incidents of sexual harassment, is a mandatory reporter under Florida law, which means he is legally obligated to report alleged abuse.

“She was in my office and immediately started crying. I had no idea what had happened other than something of a sexual nature,” Kolsch said. “So some billing and insurance guy takes a client… and does her a favor and then says, you basically owe me for doing that.”

Kolsch was disgusted by what he heard and immediately filed a report. Shortly after, he was fired.

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As an addiction treatment counselor, Kolsch said he didn’t want to see the woman’s recovery derailed, especially by someone who shouldn’t have had contact with her but who worked for the company responsible for its care.

Kolsch reported the employee’s alleged sexual harassment and saw the company fail to take meaningful action.

“It was obvious that nothing fundamental was going to change with this employee. That’s when I knew this was a pervasive problem,” Kolsch said.

Kolsch claims he was fired the same day he reported to DCF. In Florida, state law prohibits employers from doing anything to prevent or discourage employees from reporting.

In her report to DCF, Kolsch said that “I have been told we need to fire the patient who reported the sexual harassment because she is a liability.”

Where is Florida law?

Florida law states that “any detrimental change in the residency or employment status of such a person, such as, but not limited to, termination, termination, demotion, transfer or reduction salary or benefits or work privileges, or negative evaluations, within 120 days of the report “has grounds for civil action.

Drew Breznitsky, an addiction counselor based at Satellite Beach, said the damage caused by this type of harassment at a drug treatment center can be immeasurable.

“So now she’s recovering, she was allegedly sexually harassed by someone she trusted who isn’t even really supposed to have that kind of contact,” Breznitsky said. “And she’s losing the roof over her head and not getting treatment.”

Kolsch was able to help the alleged victim find accommodation and treatment, but without this support system, Breznitsky said he feared she might have relapsed or worse.

“God knows what would have happened.”

Tyler Vazquez is the North Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Vazquez at 321-917-7491 or [email protected] Twitter: @tyler_vazquez

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