A prominent Maine geriatrics specialist is suing the owner of a group of assisted-living centers, alleging he was discriminated against because he is a Muslim and his contract as medical director was terminated in late 2018 after he clashed with executives over treatment for residents.

Dr. Jabbar Fazeli states in his lawsuit that others at the assisted-living centers where he worked began to discriminate against him after it was reported in 2016 that his brother, Adnan Fazeli, probably died in Lebanon in 2015 after leaving the U.S. and saying he was going to the Middle East to fight for the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State.

The legal complaint, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in Portland, says Fazeli talked to the FBI after he grew concerned that his brother had become radicalized after arriving in Maine in 2009.

After news stories about his brother were published in 2016, Fazeli “was treated with increasing bias and disrespect” by others at the facilities, the lawsuit alleges.

Fazelli is well-known throughout the state as the spokesman for the Maine Medical Directors Association, which represents doctors and staff at long-term care facilities. In March, he spoke out publicly about the lack of COVID-19 testing among residents and employees at Maine’s long-term care facilities, warning that Maine’s 93 nursing homes and more than 200 assisted-living facilities had been largely ignored when it came to testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Fazeli was hired as an on-site physician for the Avita of Stroudwater assisted-living facility in Westbrook in 2013 and became medical director of it and two other affiliated assisted living centers two years later. In early 2016, Northbridge Companies, the Massachusetts-based owner of the assisted-living and memory care centers, signed a contract making Fazeli medical director of Avita at Stroudwater, Avita of Wells and Stroudwater Lodge, the lawsuit states.

Northbridge owns 15 assisted living centers in New England. The company’s chairman, James Coughlin, emailed “no comment” when he was asked by the Portland Press Herald if he wished to respond to the lawsuit.

Dr. Jabbar Fazeli spoke out publicly in March about the lack of COVID-19 testing among residents and employees at Maine’s long-term care facilities. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Fazeli also declined to comment, but his lawyer, Chad Hansen, said Fazeli had developed strong relationships with residents at the facilities when he worked there.

“Defendants’ actions ended those relationships, and that has been the worst part for Dr. Fazeli,” Hansen said.

Fazeli owns a geriatric practice with a clinic in Biddeford called Maine Geriatrics. That company is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which names Northbridge Companies, the three assisted-living centers and two company executives, Katrin Feick and Orlene Dematteo, as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges that Fazeli and executives at the assisted-living centers clashed over treatment for residents. The executives, according to the suit, pushed for Fazeli to medicate the residents with drugs that would “calm them down,” rather than use other methods to treat those suffering from dementia.

The practice of heavily medicating dementia patients is known as applying “chemical restraints,” the lawsuit says, and higher-ups told Fazeli he was “not putting the interests of the facility first” by declining to prescribe strong medications. His contract was terminated in 2018 after, according to the company, Fazeli had engaged in “inappropriate communications” with residents, residents’ families and facility employees, the lawsuit alleges.

Fazeli’s legal complaint doesn’t offer specifics on the alleged inappropriate communications, and Fazeli denied any improper contacts. The lawsuit says Fazeli was never told about any inappropriate communications beyond the broad charge at the time his contract was terminated.

The lawsuit asks that Fazeli’s contract be reinstated and that he be awarded compensatory and punitive damages.

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