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Title IX Protects Medical Residents

After graduating from medical school, doctors become residents at hospitals to complete their training. Mercy Hospital, part of Drexel University, runs a medical residency program. Jane Doe was a resident in the radiology department. She has claimed that the director of Mercy’s residency program sexually harassed her and then retaliated against her when she complained about it. This director, James Roe, allegedly pursued a personal relationship with her and would not stop even after several complaints to Human Resources.

Human Resources’ responded to her complaints by encouraging her to seek psychiatric treatment. Dr. Roe also gave Ms. Doe negative recommendations when she tried to apply for fellowship programs at other hospitals. Ms. Doe continued to complain. She was told that she was not performing well and had to have a corrective plan. Meanwhile, Dr. Roe continued to harass her, including inappropriately touching her. When she complained again, she was told that the other residents “loved Dr. Roe” and that she should apologize to him. She was terminated shortly thereafter.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether Title IX applied to a medical residency program. It concluded that in this case it did and that the term “educational” program should be interpreted broadly. The Mercy residency program was structured as an educational program; it allowed the residents to get a certification to qualify for an examination; it had instructions, tests, or grades; and was promoted as educational. Mercy’s acceptance of Medicare funds qualified as “federal financial assistance” making it subject to Title IX. The circuit court noted that Ms. Doe could also have pursued her claims via Title VII as she was an employee. However, under Title VII she would have been required to exhaust her administrative remedies i.e., filing a charge with the EEOC.