Female physicians claim they were treated differently than male counterparts

By Kelly Holleran | Aug 1, 2014

Two female physicians say they were paid less and treated worse than their male co-workers.

Two female physicians say they were paid less and treated worse than their male co-workers.

Dr. Leah Antoniewicz and Dr. Michele Curtis filed a lawsuit July 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division against The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Dr. Sebastian Faro and Dr. Sean Blackwell.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege Health Science Center failed to stop discriminatory treatment or provide them with equal opportunities.

When the doctors voiced their complaints, saying they were treated unfairly in comparison to their male colleagues, the university retaliated against them, according to the complaint.

The two doctors were working as assistant professors of obstetrics and gynecology University of Texas Health Science Center of Texas, where they received several awards. For example, Dr. Antoniewicz received an award as outstanding chief resident and for her laparoscopic skills, the suit states. Dr. Curtis has given numerous presentations nationally, has published on a variety of topics in peer-reviewed journals and has worked on issues related to preconception care and improving maternal fetal pregnancy outcomes, the complaint says.

In either 2011 or 2012, the university’s Faculty Senate revealed there were a disproportionate number of male professors and associate professors compared to female professors. According to the plaintiffs, the Faculty Senate approached the school’s dean, but nothing was done to rectify the issue.

In September of 2010, the university hired Faro, who proved to be disrespectful toward female physicians, according to the complaint. For instance, he excluded them from meetings, moved them out of offices in favor of female physicians and engaged in other behaviors that resulted in lesser duties, lower pay and hostility, the suit states.

Blackwell, who was chairman of the OB/GYN department and supervised Faro, did nothing to punish him, even though he was aware of the issue, the complaint says. When the university failed to address the issue, Curtis engaged in legal action, she claims. She entered into a settlement agreement with the university in January 2012, according to the complaint.

After failing to see results following her legal action, Curtis joined with Antoniewicz to file a complaint of discriminatory treatment with the office of human resources, the current complaint says. In July of 2012, UTHSC-H informed the plaintiffs they found no fault with the Faro’s actions, they claim.

About one month after the findings, Curtis and Antoniewicz were told their contracts would not be renewed and they would be terminated Aug. 31, 2012, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs claim the university and its employees violated Title VII and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Because of their terminations, the plaintiffs claim they lost wages and benefits.

They seek certification of the lawsuit as a class action, plus back and front pay and compensatory and punitive damages. They also seek pre- and post-judgment interest at the highest legal rate, attorneys’ fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

They are being represented by attorneys Martin A. Shellist and J. Alfred Southerland of Shellist, Lazarz and Slobin LLP in Houston.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division case number 4:14-cv-2083.

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it represents only one side of the story.

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