U.S. Supreme Court to review Texas discrimination case

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will be reviewing a $3.6 million discrimination lawsuit award against the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The harassment lawsuit was brought by Dr. Nael Nassar, a Muslim and Egyptian native, who complained that the clinic discriminated against him after he refused to commit billing fraud.

Nassar worked at the medical center as an AIDS clinician and alleged that he was retaliated against and ultimately forced to quit the clinic after the UT Chief of Infectious Disease encouraged him to bill insurers for his services. Billing for his services is illegal because his salary was funded by a federal grant .

When he refused to bill for his services, Nassar says that the Chief of Infectious Disease began making discriminatory comments about his religion and national origin. She told Nassar that people from the Middle East were lazy. She questioned his direct supervisor on his work productivity. His supervisor testified that Nassar was a hard worker and saw more patients than any other doctor at the HIV-AIDS clinic. The supervisor also alleged that after Nassar left, he recommended another doctor from the Middle East to replace him, but the Chief chose to hire a less qualified white doctor.

Nassar claims that he was forced to resign from UT Southwestern because of the discrimination. He attempted to obtain a job from Parkland Hospital, but alleged that UT Southwestern blocked him from getting that job by giving him an unfavorable recommendation.

Nassar alleged he was discriminated against because of his religion and national origin. The jury agreed and awarded him a $3.6 million judgment, which included approximately $438,000 in back pay and $3.2 million in other damages.

UT Southwestern appealed the jury verdict, alleging that Dr. Nassar must prove that his resignation, or adverse employment action, was the exclusive result of the hospital's alleged discrimination. There are competing precedents from lower courts on this issue. Some courts have held that the plaintiff must prove that the adverse employment action would not have occurred but for the discrimination in order to prevail and be awarded damages. Other courts have ruled that discrimination does not have to be the exclusive reason for the adverse employment action; it can be one of several reasons.

A ruling from the Supreme Court finding that discrimination has to be the exclusive reason would make discrimination lawsuits more difficult to win in the future. If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, contact an experienced employment law attorney in your area to learn about your rights.