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Diverse Docket: Judge Sides With Yale in Discrimination Suit

A federal judge in Connecticut has rejected race and gender discrimination claims by an African-American doctor who was terminated from Yale University’s obstetrics and gynecology residency program, finding that the university had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action.

The suit came from Dr. Anthony Craig, who was one of three African-Americans among the six residents admitted to the program in 2008. They were selected from a field of 363 candidates, Yale said in court filings.

Craig signed a one-year employment contract with Yale’s medical school. During his first months, he received sharply negative performance evaluations, with some attending physicians failing him and with others reporting that they would be uncomfortable with his treating their patients unsupervised.

For example, Craig came under criticism for a lack of surgical skills, poor communication with patients and colleagues, need for constant supervision, lack of organization and failure to improve, according to court documents. There were also suggestions that he would perform better in a laboratory setting or that he transfer to a less strenuous residency program at a community-based hospital.

After his initial dismissal from the program, Craig filed a grievance that led to his reinstatement with an agreement to a 12-week performance improvement plan. During that period, the majority of evaluators again found his performance substandard, and Yale permanently dismissed him in April 2009. A Black woman later filled his residency position.

The lawsuit alleged discrimination, emotional distress, breach of contract by the university and by the director and associate director of Craig’s program. It sought reinstatement to the program, plus compensatory and punitive damages.

U.S. District Judge Janet Arterton dismissed the case, saying, “The record is replete with evidence of Dr. Craig’s poor performance.”

Arterton called Craig’s statistical evidence “problematic” because he presented no expert analysis or interpretation of data about male Black OB/GYNs at Yale and their counterparts in other residency programs and because he submitted no statistics about other residents whom Yale had terminated.

Her decision noted that Craig hadn’t mentioned race or gender discrimination during the grievance process. It also said there were no claims that his Yale colleagues made racially derogatory remarks, although he alleged that an unnamed private physician had called him “boy.”

Arterton said he could not discuss the case.

Former Morgan State Student Denied Again

In a sharply worded rebuke, a federal judge in Baltimore dumped a discrimination suit by a former Morgan State University student who failed an exam because of plagiarism.

The plaintiff, Samuel Mwabira-Simera, had filed similarly worded claims of national origin, race and disability discrimination in at least four separate suits against Howard University and former employers, U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander said. All were dismissed earlier.

Uganda-born Mwabira-Simera was a victim of state-sponsored torture before coming to the United States and suffered from post-traumatic stress and physical disabilities, according to the suit. Morgan State accommodated his disabilities with note-takers, a tape recorder and extra time on exams.

He received double time to complete a closed-book mid-term in a 2008 geography course. After reading the exam, the instructor accused Mwabira-Simera of academic dishonesty. In turn, he filed a grievance that accused the instructor of “racist bias,” but a hearing committee assigned an F on the exam because of extensive plagiarism.

Representing himself in the suit, Mwabira-Simera alleged that Morgan State subjected him to “a racially discriminatory graded course.”

But Hollander’s decision said he failed to offer any evidence suggesting that he deserved a passing grade on the mid-term or that the university’s explanation of its plagiarism penalty was a pretext for discrimination.

There also was no evidence that Morgan State denied Mwabira-Simera any benefits because of his disabilities, she said. To the contrary, he acknowledged receiving accommodation from the university.

Pennsylvania Higher Ed Agency Cleared

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which provides student assistance nationally, didn’t discriminate when it demoted a Hispanic vice president without loss of pay, a federal court ruled.

U.S. District Judge John Jones III accepted a magistrate judge’s recommendation to dismiss the suit by Erwin Vera, who still works for the agency in Harrisburg, Penn.

Vera joined the agency in 1990 and became a vice president in 2005. In 2006, he was demoted to assistant vice president due to poor performance in his loan processing unit, including a large backlog of applications, computer and Web malfunctions, and complaints from clients and complaints, the decision said. The problems resulted from a drop in interest rates to record lows and relaxation of student loan consolidation rules.

Despite a poor performance evaluation, Vera received a $21,000 bonus.

He had been identified as White in the human resources database, but the designation was changed to Hispanic after he accused the agency of discrimination.

In 2008 amid dramatic changes in financial markets, Vera was demoted again and his salary reduced as part of the agency’s large-scale personnel realignment that included severance offers, pay cuts and elimination of executive positions.

In rejecting allegations of discrimination, the court found no evidence of illegal discrimination. For example it said that, during the 2008 employment reorganization, 89.7 percent of the management employees receiving demotions and salary cuts were White, 6.9 percent were Black and 3.4 percent were Hispanic.

Vera received the same separation offer as other employees. Even after the second demotion, his salary “remained on the very high end of the scale for that position,” the decision said.

Vera’s lawyer, John Kerr of Mechanicsburg, said his client’s salary took a “catastrophic diminution” in 2001 from $120,000 plus bonuses to $49,000 as a unionized employee.

There will be no appeal, Kerr said.

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