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Duke reaches settlement with Medical Center professor in discrimination lawsuit

Duke has reached a settlement with a professor of medicine who filed a lawsuit alleging gender and racial discrimination.

Manal Abdelmalek, a tenured professor of medicine and Duke Medical Center physician, filed suit in July 2019 after allegedly being “subjected to discrimination on the basis of her gender and race/national origin,” according to the complaint. The case was settled by Aug. 13, 2020, after a mediated settlement conference in early August, according to case documents. 

After that settlement, the case was dismissed Sept. 30, 2020. Neither the order nor the notification of settlement included details about the settlement. 

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, declined to comment on the end of the lawsuit or the details of the settlement. He told The Chronicle last year that Duke does not comment on active litigation or personnel matters, but that "as an employer, Duke is deeply committed to equity and inclusion for all faculty and staff."

Stewart Fisher, Abdelmalek’s attorney from the Glenn, Mills, Fisher and Mahoney law firm in Durham, told The Chronicle last year that it would be a “long time” before the case was resolved since it was still in its early stages. The legal proceedings were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with depositions conducted remotely, according to court documents.

The complaint filed in 2019 alleged that Duke Medical Center has a “history of favoring men over women [for] promotion and compensation” and that it paid female employees and non-white employees with “equal or better training, experience and performance” less than male employees and white employees. Duke denied the allegations in its answer to the complaint. 

Abdelmalek also claimed that Andrew Muir, professor of medicine and chair of the gastroenterology division, exhibited bias toward her, denied her a proper salary and delayed her promotion to the rank of full professor. 

Muir did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. He declined to comment on the lawsuit last year. 

Abdelmalek filed the complaint after filing three separate charges of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission beginning in November 2017 and being issued a right-to-sue notice April 22, 2019. The complaint stated that Abdelmalek sought “injunctive relief, monetary relief, compensatory damages, liquidated damages, punitive damages and attorney's fees” under federal and state law. 

Abdelmalek was initially the only plaintiff, but Christopher Kigongo, senior clinical research coordinator in the GI division, tried to join the case as an additional plaintiff in October 2019. Kigongo is referenced in court documents as having filed separate EEOC complaints “alleging race/national origin discrimination and retaliation” over negative performance reviews that came after he refused to provide a staff member with negative information about Abdelmalek. Kigongo, who is from Uganda, alleged that he had experienced ethnic discrimination and retaliation as a result of his objections to Abdelmalek’s treatment and his own. 

Kigongo’s claims were stayed by the court in October 2019 pending resolution of arbitration between Abdelmalek and Duke. 

Schoenfeld declined to comment on Kigono’s attempt to join the case. 

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