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Former anesthesiologist sues Duke, alleges disability discrimination

Michael Shaughnessy, a former Duke anesthesiologist, filed a lawsuit May 29 because of alleged disability discrimination that led to the University’s not renewing his contract.

In 2011, Shaughnessy, who graduated from Duke Medical School in 2006, was hired as a regular-rank faculty member in the Department of Anesthesiology. His employment ended June 30, 2017. The lawsuit alleges discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a hostile work environment based on disability, retaliation in violation of the ADA and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He is seeking damages and the expenses of the lawsuit.

“Duke’s actions in discharging Dr. Shaughnessy were taken with malice or with reckless indifference to Dr. Shaughnessy’s rights. As a result of Dr. Shaughnessy’s wrongful discharge, he has suffered emotional distress, economic damages, and damage to his reputation,” the lawsuit said. “Dr. Shaughnessy is entitled to back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and such other relief as the court shall deem proper.”

According to the lawsuit, Shaughnessy has a congenital complete heart block that requires a permanent cardiac pacemaker, as well as depression and a persistent redness of the face. It alleges that his employers were aware of these conditions, and that they were the basis of Shaughnessy’s termination.

He was allegedly told that he “could count on sabotaged letters of reference...and blacklisting at Duke Regional [Hospital] as well as at the University of North Carolina or the Durham Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center.” 

Duke is also currently facing a class-action antitrust lawsuit because of an alleged no-hire agreement between itself and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, says Shaughnessy went through Duke’s internal grievance process under the Faculty Handbook to appeal the non-renewal of his faculty appointment, but his contract was not renewed. In June 2017, he filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued him a right-to-sue notice on Feb. 26, 2018.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, declined to comment.

Read Shaughnessy’s full complaint here:

Likhitha Butchireddygari

Follow Likhitha on Twitter

Class of 2019

Editor-in-chief 2017-18, 

Local and national news department head 2016-17

Born in Hyderabad, India, Likhitha Butchireddygari moved to Baltimore at a young age. She is pursuing a Program II major entitled "Digital Democracy and Data" about the future of the American democracy.


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