A radiation oncologist, who formerly worked for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, won a potential $3 million verdict in federal court on charges that her employer retaliated against her for raising concerns about discrimination. The jury recommended that Dr. Kristina Gerszten be awarded $1.5 million in back pay from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, which works in tandem with the UPMC Cancer Centers, as well as $827,292 in front pay. But since those amounts are only advisory, it will be up to U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab to determine what amount the Defendant will actually have to pay.
Dr. Gerszten filed a federal lawsuit in September 2008, alleging that she had been discriminated against because of her gender and retaliated against for making the original complaint to hospital officials. The jury found no evidence of sex discrimination, but it did find that she was retaliated against when the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute failed to hire her as medical director at both UPMC St. Margaret and at its facility in Natrona Heights.
In addition to back and front pay, the verdict includes $200,000 in compensatory damages, as well as $300,000 in punitive damages. The jury found that punitive damages should be $500,000, but under law, the cap is $300,000. The award of punitive damages, which is not typical in these cases, says that UPMC Cancer Centers violated the law in a malicious way.
Dr. Gerszten, 46, was employed as a radiation oncologist with UPMC from 1992 to 2007. After leaving her position as medical director for radiation oncology at Magee-Womens Hospital in February 2004, Dr. Gerszten signed a two-year contract in which she traveled to various UPMC cancer centers and provided coverage. According to a court filing, UPMC said Dr. Gerszten negotiated her schedule so that she would only work 180 to 200 days each year, though she would be considered a full-time employee.
In 2006, Dr. Gerszten was given a new, one-year contract at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. In January 2007, the Institute chose not to renew. As part of that contract, Dr. Gerszten said, she had an 18-month non-compete clause and was left without work until January 2009. She now works part time at the Department of Veterans Affairs as a staff radiation oncologist. Dr. Gerszten said at UPMC, “the emphasis was on the money” and not the patients. Colleen Ramage Johnston represented Gerszten.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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