Rothman Institute surgeon wins Gender Discrimination Case

By: Derek Demeri
On: January 29, 2024

Zeff - Gender Discrimination Case

What Were The Circumstances That Led To The Filing Of This Sex Discrimination Lawsuit?

Following an incident stemming from an annual party he hosted at his home, Dr. John Abraham was forced by a resident physician to consume excessive amounts of alcohol and was sexually assaulted. Abraham and his legal counsel argued that he was the victim of sexual assault in the incident and that Thomas Jefferson University failed to act on his complaint and furthermore, conducted what was an allegedly gender-biased investigation into the allegations that Abraham had raped the former resident physician. The lawsuit stated that Jefferson violated Title IX that states that academic institutions that receive federal funds are required to maintain an educational environment free from sex discrimination, including sexual assault. Following a four-day trial, a jury took only an hour to find in Abraham’s behalf, citing that Jefferson had violated his civil rights and intentionally disrupted his ability to earn income with Rothman Orthopedic Institute. The jury awarded Abraham $15 million dollars.

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What Is Legally Considered Sex Discrimination?

Sex discrimination is defined as the unfavorable or less favorable treatment of an individual on the basis of sex. In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights act prohibits employment discrimination via sexual stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or pregnancy. Just eight years later, under the Nixon administration, the parameters of sexual discrimination grew under the ratification of Title IX for institutions that receive Federal funding. As federal law, Title IX removed barriers that discriminated against and prevented individuals from participating in educational opportunities or careers based on sex.
Zeff - Gender Discrimination Case

How Was Title IX Violated In This Case?

In this case, Dr. Abraham, the Plaintiff, and his attorneys argued that Thomas Jefferson University Hospital violated Title IX law with the gender biased actions taken in the handling of Abraham’s case. The Plaintiff alleged that the gender-biased investigation resulted in his termination from Jefferson and Rothman. Abraham’s case was founded on Jefferson’s ignorance of his complaint and the lack of an opportunity to defend himself from the claims brought against him. The Plaintiff contended that his claims were handled by Jefferson differently as he was a male accused of sexual assault. This mishandling and the subsequent sex discrimination was an intentional interference with his ability to maintain his career and earn money as a Rothman surgeon and partner.

Abraham was formerly an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson. Rothman’s physicians serve as faculty and supervisors at Jefferson. As a recipient of Federal funding and the interconnection between Rothman’s employees serving as Jefferson’s leadership, Title IX became an applicable argument for the Plaintiff’s attorneys.

Why Is This Sex Discrimination Case Unusual?

The ruling at the conclusion of Abraham v. Thomas Jefferson University is considered to be historic. With the jury finding for the Plaintiff, it is the first time that a male professor, when accused by a female subordinate, has won his case against a university at trial. This particular case is also noted as the largest verdict for a male plaintiff in a Title IX claim.

What Evidence Was Introduced To Establish This As A Case Of Sex Discrimination?

The Plaintiff and his legal counsel presented several key pieces of evidence to establish this case as sex discrimination in accordance to Title IX. Abraham reported the incident to his superiors, but the Residency Program Director never responded to the Plaintiff’s report. However, they did act upon a retaliatory report from the resident physician. Jefferson’s Title IX coordinator then sent notice to the Plaintiff informing him of an investigation and warned him he would be suspended and reported to the Medical Staff and National Practitioner Database. Believing he had no recourse, Abraham took leave of absence. Abraham was then subsequently suspended from his position at Rothman as well.

The evidence in this case continued to build as no action was taken to investigate his claims. Abraham was denied the opportunity to provide or present evidence, statements, or witnesses on his behalf. He was also denied the opportunity to review Jefferson’s investigative report. Jefferson also prohibited him from serving any Jefferson patients at any Rothman facilities. The punitive actions taken by Jefferson brought undue professional and financial damage onto the Plaintiff.

What Are The Implications For Future Sex Discrimination Cases?

The implications of Abraham v. Jefferson are precedent-setting, changing the landscape of sex discrimination cases. In this case, Title IX served as a bulwark for the accused party. The complexity brought to light in this case stems from proving the monetary damages that were accrued by false accusations and sex discrimination. As a result, employers are now held accountable for violations to any and all professional and ethical doctrines that could result in loss of employment privileges.

Contact Zeff Law Firm If You Have Been Experienced Workplace Sex Discrimination

If you believe you have been the victim of sexual discrimination, contact the team of experts at Zeff Law Firm. For many, the complexity of bringing a sex discrimination claim against your employer can be an intimidating and daunting task. With over 30 years of experience, our team has the knowledge and resources to evaluate your claim and seek the compensation you are due.

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