Surgical Technician Sues M.D. Anderson Over Raunchy Talk in the O.R.

Categories: Courts

Johnny Holmes, A.K.A. Johnny Wadd: Typing his name into Google Images is NSFW. Trust us on that one.
Sheila Gordon, a certified surgical technician, is suing U.T. - M.D. Anderson, claiming that the world-renowned cancer treatment center is a sexually hostile workplace.

According to the suit filed on November 6 by Gordon and attorney Martin A. Shellist, Gordon was placed by an agency at M.D. Anderson in September 2010.

"During her assignment with MDACC, plaintiff Gordon was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment," the suit begins. "By way of example, personnel in the surgical unit, including doctors and nurses, regularly referred to one of the surgical instruments as 'the Johnny Holmes.'"

The suit goes on to describe this instrument as a "long, heavy, right-angle clamp used in urology and thoracic surgery." The suit says that Gordon did not know who Johnny Holmes was, so she innocently posed the question, and it turns out that the device was certainly not named in honor of the former Harris County DA.

"Certain members of the surgical team burst out laughing and informed her that Johnny Holmes was a porno star of note because of the extraordinary size of his penis," the suit continues.

(Heh heh. They said "members.")

"Plaintiff was shocked when she learned that a surgical instrument she regularly handled in the operating room was named after a porn star's phallus," the suit continues in a cold-eyed fury.

And that was not all.

Gordon goes on to portray one of the doctors in the unit as a non-stop font of raunch and smut.

The suit claims that Dr. John Ward "frequently made profane language and made highly sexualized comments during surgery."

(Oh, it happens. My stepmother is a nurse, and she once witnessed a doctor in the O.R. utter the following scintillating repartee: "Nurse Johnson, you look hot today. The only way you could look any hotter than you do right now would be if my dick was in your mouth.")

According to the suit, when apprised of Gordon's misgivings, M.D. Anderson management was blase in the extreme. The suit states that she was essentially told that "Doctors will be doctors," and that she should just deal with it.

Nevertheless, things improved for a time. Gordon spent some time working with other doctors. Then, in February of 2011, she was assigned to Ward's O.R. again. In spite of knowing of her complaints, the suit claims that during an operation Ward asked Gordon repeatedly to hand him his "long Johnny Holmes." Ward then reportedly asked Gordon if she really was offended by the nickname.

Darn straight, Gordon said. She told Ward that she would be reporting him to management again. Undaunted, at least according to the suit, Ward pressed on, continuing to "use lewd language, such as referring to he and another surgeon 'masturbating over a decision.'"

It all rose to a crescendo of filth, the suit contends, when at the end of the surgery, Ward mentioned Gordon's "big booty' and said that he intended to walk around 'buck naked' all weekend.

Gordon complained again. A manager told her she should have just looked away. Turn the other cheek, as it were.

A few days later, Gordon was informed that her assignment was revoked and that she was no longer needed at M.D. Anderson, even though other temp surgical technicians remained at the hospital. She contends that she was a perfectly fine employee and that the "retaliatory" termination damaged her both emotionally and financially.

She is claiming gender discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation. She has demanded a jury trial.

M.D. Anderson has yet to quit masturbating about their decisions and set down their big Johnny Holmes's long enough to file a response, although in a Houston Chronicle article about this suit, a spokesman sent the following written statement:

"M.D. Anderson cannot comment on the specific facts or allegations in any pending litigation. However, M.D. Anderson has very strong policies in place prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation, and we take these allegations very seriously."

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To update an aside in this story, my stepmother has informed me, via my dad, that the surgeon who longed for his dick to be in the mouth of Nurse Johnson was, in fact, disciplined for saying that. At the time, the hospital where said statement was uttered, was run by nuns, who were very much not amused by the doctor's attempt at wit. 


What people need to understand is that, we spend more time w/ our coworkers than our own families. We work together 8-12 hours a day, everyday. We develop close friendships. We get comfortable around each other, and our conversations we have are like that of any other group of friends. Sometimes we get silly, sometimes we laugh, it makes for a pleasant low stress environment for all. If we couldn't have a little fun at work, employers would be hard pressed to maintain employment. I totally disagree that it is a sexually charged hostile environment. It's the greatest place to work, and Dr. Ward is an amazing surgeon and person.


I'm really baffled as to why it's ok to take the side of the offenders with advice to the victim to "get a tougher skin."  If sexual harassment doesn't effect people, why do we have policies against it?  Some people don't want to think about "dick" all day long at that too much to ask?  I concur that a lawsuit probably isn't the way to go, but what other act of recourse does she have if she has already complained to management multiple times?  

Mark Haubrich
Mark Haubrich

Counter sue..I have a credit card that will pay legal fees..

Jerise Harris-Henson
Jerise Harris-Henson

Doctors are known for their lewd humor, especially surgeons. I think she was probably surprised by this and since she was a temp was probably not part of the gossip mill where she would have learned about Dr. Ward's behavior. I think the only problem was when they put her back in his OR after she had filed the initial complaint. Someone screwed up there. Of course she was fired because she was a tattler and no one likes tattlers. Can she prove it in court? Probably not. Even if she does it is not like she is going to get much money and the culture of operating rooms will not change. I think that women (well people in general) need to think long and hard about what is actually offensive versus something you may not be comfortable with. A think it is unreasonable to expect any workplace to be "comfortable" for every employee. I think it is reasonable for there to be rules in place to prevent abuse but that is about it. I have quit jobs before because I simply did not like the culture - I would never sue, though. I am not entitled to a job where people behave the way I want them to.

Jww Weghorst
Jww Weghorst

Sounds like a money grab by this lady. Get real.

Melia Hughes
Melia Hughes

You really need a thicker skin that that to get through an average day in life, much less in the OR. I hope they come up with some good ways to prevent nuisance lawsuits someday.


Sounds like they were being harmless but she's just an uptight overly sheltered little religious girl that chose not to fit in.  They weren't even talking directly about her.  What a "nut".  Oops, I bet she'd file a complaint for the N word there ;-)


Does she have any proof?

MadMac topcommenter

Wow, in another state, this could be real trouble. Good thing it's Texas where we're a right to fire--work, I meant right to work state. And thanks to RP's tort reform, any damages are limitted to chump change. The lawyers pay out more for photo copies than she's likely to get.

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