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News
UCLA doctor settles with UC Board of Regents

 Thursday, July 25, 2013 11:29 am

By Betty Pleasant

Dr. Christian Head, the highly regarded African-American surgeon and UCLA associate professor who claimed UCLA administrators subjected him to a decade-long campaign of disparaging racist acts — the most egregious of which was the public depiction of him as a big black gorilla being sodomized by a white man — has been offered $4.5 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit he filed last year against the University of California Board of Regents.

In his 40-page lawsuit, filed on April 17, 2012, Dr. Head, 51, described a litany of racial bullying, badgering, harassment and overt mistreatment he endured from the day he accepted an assistant professor appointment to the UCLA Medical School faculty in 2002. The general tenor of the abuse being that he was Black, therefore inhuman and inferior and consequently, had no business among the other doctors at the UCLA Medical School.

Dr. Head complained of his abuse to UCLA administrators and was ignored. But he filed suit in Superior Court after he was subjected to the vilest of insults: he — and his witnesses — said Dr. Head was featured in a slide show in which his face was superimposed on the body of a big black gorilla being sodomized by his white supervisor. The slide show was presented at a year-end party of UCLA’s medical faculty and staff, where he was the object of shame, derision and hilarity.

UCLA officials vehemently denied every complaint and charge Dr. Head made, including the gorilla-sodomizing slide show. However, the regents voted for Dr. Head’s $4.5 million settlement in a closed session July 18 and issued a statement acknowledging that an “inappropriate slide” had been shown at a public university party.

In agreeing to settle with Dr. Head, the regents’ stated: “The case presented difficult issues of alleged discrimination and retaliation that we strongly contested. The university acknowledges that in June 2006 during an end-of-year event, an inappropriate slide was shown. The university regrets that this occurred. The university decided that the case should be resolved with a mutual release of all legal claims.”

Last week’s statement by the regents was as far removed from UCLA’s reaction when this reporter broke the Dr. Head story last year as the Earth is from Antares. Some 14 months ago, Phil Hampton, associate director of UCLA Media Relations, wrote the following on The Wave’s website beneath the story of Dr. Head’s plight:

“It is unfortunate that your readers were not afforded the benefit of UCLA’s response to the inflammatory allegations made by Dr. Christian Head. UCLA is committed to and promotes diversity, and the campus takes all appropriate steps to protect employees from harassment and intimidation. State whistleblower laws prohibit retaliation against employees who express concerns about what they consider to be illegal activity. University policies embrace these laws, and the campus is committed to preventing any such retaliation. Allegations of discrimination and retaliation are taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly. While privacy laws prevent us from discussing details, UCLA investigated Dr. Head’s allegations and found that the evidence does not substantiate the claims of unlawful activity.”

Comes now Dr. Joel Sercarz, a 20-year board certified surgeon and 10-year colleague of Dr. Head at UCLA and other medical facilities, who also filed suit against the University of California Board of Regents last year because he was discriminated and retaliated against, mistreated and ultimately fired from his job because, according to the suit, he supported Dr. Head in his fight against his abusers, protested Dr. Head’s mistreatment and backed up Dr. Head’s complaints of discrimination.

Dr. Sercarz wrote letters to UCLA administrators denouncing their treatment of Dr. Head and once the administrators learned Dr. Sercarz was a witness for Dr. Head against UCLA, the administrators terminated him for “time card fraud” — claiming he was stealing time.  

Dr. Sercarz, who is the first physician terminated by UCLA from a Los Angeles County hospital, has engaged the legal services of the renown Bohm Law Group in Sacramento. His attorney said Sercarz’ case is in discovery now and is focusing on how UCLA had him terminated for stealing time by working at UCLA? We’ll have to wait and read what Hampton has to say about this on our website.

 
We provide expert legal representation in all areas of Employment Law including Class Actions, Wrongful Termination, Workplace Discrimination for Age, Pregnancy, Gender, Sexual Orientation or Family Issues, Harassment at Work, Severance Negotiations as well as in Business Law, Transactional and Litigation in Los Angeles, Orange County and all of California.

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