By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On May 8, 2017, Rutgers University was hit with a lawsuit in New Jersey state court from former and current school employees. The suit alleges that the university failed to prevent, stop and remedy sexual harassment and retaliation by the director of its anesthesia residency program. Additionally, the suit also alleges that Rutgers “fostered a harassing and discriminatory atmosphere.”
What must be remembered is that residents, interns and fellows fill dual roles. They are employees as well as “students”or graduate medical education (GME) program participants. Therefore, they have the same rights as any other hospital or institution employee.
According to the plaintiffs, they reported their claims to the university in August 2016 and provided ample evidence. Rutgers then followed with an internal probe and issued reports that the allegations were erroneously found. In the report, Rutgers stated that Dr. Jean Daniel Eloy had not violated either the state’s law against discrimination or the university’s policies on sexual harassment.
The Alleged Misconduct.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of current Rutgers University employee Melinda Ball and former employees Rebecca Scholl and Sam Nia. The alleged misconduct occurred when all three plaintiffs were residents in the program that was overseen by Dr. Eloy.
Melinda Ball and Rebecca Scholl claim Dr. Eloy repeatedly sexually harassed them, and retaliated against them because they snubbed his sexual advances, according to the complaint. Dr. Eloy allegedly retaliated against Scholl in various ways, including falsely stating in her semi-annual review that she was “disrespectful, lazy and unprofessional,” the complaint states. Dr. Eloy also allegedly retaliated against Sam Nia, because she attempted to protect Scholl from the sexual harassment and retaliation.
Ball, Scholl and Nia have accused Rutgers of “failing to conduct an adequate investigation into plaintiffs’ complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation; and failing to take appropriate disciplinary action against defendant’s supervisors, managers, agents and employees who discriminated and retaliated against plaintiffs and created a hostile work environment for them,” the complaint states.
To read the complaint filed April 27 in Essex County Superior Court in full, click here.
To read a blog on a similar case of harassment, click here.
Discrimination in Gme Programs More Common than You Think.
Unfortunately, from what our clients have told us, discrimination in different forms is not uncommon in many graduate medical education programs. Although it may be sexually based, as in this case, it may also be based upon an illness or medical condition, sexual persuasion race or national origin. It is illegal to discriminate based on these grounds or even the perception of these grounds when they do not actually exist and most institutions have written policies and standards that prohibit it. Discrimination and harassment can make a residency or other learning experience intolerable and lead to poor performance and failure.
Students, residents, interns and fellows may be reluctant to report incidents of discrimination or harassment because of fears of reprisal. However, you should always report it. You are doing no favors to your self, your peers or the program itself when you fail to report it.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Representing Medical Students, Residents and Fellows.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents medical students, residents and fellows who run into difficulties and have disputes with their medical schools or programs. We also represent other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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