Plaintiff alleges UTMB forced him to participate in illegal acts, then terminated him

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Nov. 25, 2008, 4:57am

GALVESTON – A Galveston County man is seeking $1.5 million from the University of Texas Medical Branch, alleging he was terminated because he refused to perform a reportedly illegal act.

Ray P. Lewis claims UTMB coerced him into granting two faculty members open access to the school's computer system in an effort to dismiss him, according to the suit filed Nov. 20 in Galveston County District Court.

He is represented by Galveston attorney Anthony P. Griffin.

"This lawsuit is brought under established Texas law, prohibiting an employer for terminating an employee and/or taking adverse action because an employee refuses to perform an illegal act," the original petition says.

The plaintiff, who was six months away from retirement, believes the incident transpired because he filed an application for a salary increase from the Neurology Department more than six months ago in response to an increase in his responsibilities under new management.

"(Ray) Lewis determined in March 2008 that his salary was not on par with others that occupy the same position," the suit says. "Mr. Lewis made a formal request for an appropriate wage adjustment."

Lewis claims his supervisor said he would grant his salary request if he would submit to an evaluation outside the regular evaluation period.

"Plaintiff protested the special treatment," the suit says.

The suit states Lewis underwent an evaluation on April 18 in which UT sought to "downgrade" his performance, although he was not notified in writing of any inadequacies as the UT System policy dictates.

Lewis proceeded to address the issue internally, filing numerous grievances.

Department chairperson Dr. Tetsuo Ashizawa wrote the plaintiff a letter, informing him that the basic science research faculty was displeased with his alleged inflexibility, the suit says.

"It became clear to the plaintiff that there was a move to terminate his employment and to blame him for his refusal to take actions that he thought to be illegal and in violation of university policy and Texas law," it states.

Lewis asserts his refusal to honor the faculty's request prompted UTMB to calculate a plan to fire him.

"The faculty members and university policymakers exchanged e-mails seeking to rid the University of the 'Ray problem,'" the suit says.

In addition to compensatory damages, Lewis seeks back and front wages and a declaratory judgment that the defendant's alleged acts were illegal.

Galveston County 212nd District Court Judge Susan Criss is presiding over the case.

Case No. 08CV1173

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