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The first and only female spine neurosurgeon at Harvard was awarded $1.6 million in a sex discrimination lawsuit on Tuesday after a jury found the defendants—Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Arthur L. Day, chairman of the hospital’s neurosurgery department—guilty of five of seven separate claims.
Sagun Tuli was granted $1 million for a hostile work environment under Day, and an additional $600,000 for damages incurred when the hospital retaliated after she voiced her criticisms.
“My hope is that [this suit] will create change,” Tuli said. “I risked my career and my reputation.”
The hospital was not found guilty of the charges of pay, research, and promotion discrimination, and was also found not guilty of discriminatory intent during an employee evaluation.
Tuli voiced previous complaints against Day with the hospital—at the end of her residency in 2004, Day allegedly asked, “Sagun can you get up on the table and dance for us to show the female residents how to behave?” according to testimony submitted in Tuli’s motion papers seeking an injunction against the hospital.
While she had previous formal brush-ins with Day, he—as her boss—still sat on the credentials committee that reviewed her standing in 2007. In October, prompted by what she said were slanderous allegations by Day, Tuli was [allegedly] instructed to consult Physician Health Services—the code for evaluation by a psychiatrist. She was allegedly told that if she did not comply with the request, her credentials would be revoked within four months.
Tuli said she refused and filed for an injunction. In what Tuli claimed was an unprecedented decision, the court granted the injunction and Tuli was allowed to retain her credentials without undergoing psychiatric evaluation.
Tuli said that she was offered a good deal by the hospital to settle, but she refused.
“I didn’t take it because it was wrong,” she said. “It will never stop if they just keep paying people off.”
Tuli said that when she approached people in positions of authority, they ignored her claims.
“Nobody listened,” she said. “The more unbelievable part is that no one is protecting you.”
John Lion, who served as legal counsel for Day, said that although he is disappointed in several of the jury findings, he was pleased that they found no discriminatory conduct.
“Day is really an outstanding neurosurgeon and I believe his character is exemplified by the thousands of patients he has cared for,” Lion said. “We believe that there are certain flaws in the findings of Dr. Day and we are going to take all the appropriate motions with the court to have them vacated.”
He noted that many of the findings were accompanied by awards of only one dollar, including the claim of slander.
Two other female doctors at the hospital, Malani Narayanan and Deepa Soni, have also filed lawsuits against Day for sex discrimination, according to Tuli. One of the suits has been settled and the other is still pending.
—Staff writer Laura G. Mirviss can be reached at email@example.com.
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