Title IX in Medical Institutions: Legal Insights for Doctors and Medical Students

January 18, 2024
medical students

Title IX in Medical Institutions

Many years ago, we wrote an article explaining that hospitals can investigate and adjudicate Title IX matters just like educational institutions. Just this past May 2023, the Cleveland Clinic issued an article also explaining that Title IX applies to those hospitals that receive federal funds for educational programs. Our favorite example are medical residents: while residents receive monetary compensations, they are still technically learning from supervising physicians. In the matter of Doe v. Mercy Catholic Medical Center, the third circuit determined that Title IX applies to residents because (1) the hospital had a structured medical program, (2) the resident had to attend lectures and present cases and (3) there was an affiliation between the hospital and the educational institution.

Rising Title IX Cases Impacting Doctors

We have seen an explosion of Title IX cases impacting the unaware doctor. Just like college kids, Title IX complaints can be filed when doctors get drunk, “hook up” or make sexually charged comments to residents, fellows or other medical personnel participating in various training programs sponsored by a hospital. Unlike college students, these incidents really stand out as doctors are expected to behave professionally across all work related settings.

Representation in Title IX Cases

And, we have represented both complainants and respondents in Title IX cases. We have filed complaints for residents struggling to fit in under an atmosphere where sexually charged and often demeaning jokes turn an operating room into a locker room. We know that ambitious, hardworking residents should not feel like they have to participate in these conversations just to feel like a team member. Fortunately, we were able to use the Title IX process to help our client successfully navigate the complaint without retaliation.

Guiding Accused Doctors Through the Process

More often, we represent the accused doctor, who can be mystified by the Title IX process. We patiently guide our clients through the investigation and subsequent hearings and outcomes to ensure that the hospital complies with the law and policy. Just like our college cases, we make sure that our clients present the best defense to the charges lodged against them. We want our clients to feel like they get the same care and attention that they would afford to their patients.

Changing Landscape and Legal Precedent

The landscape in this area is changing. Just recently, Title IX became a shield and not the usual sword to a physician who worked at Thomas Jefferson University. In the case of John A. Abraham, MD v. Thomas Jefferson University, et al, a jury awarded Dr. Abraham a whopping 15 million dollars after finding that the university violated Title IX for gender bias and sex discrimination. Dr. Rothman alleged, and proved, that the university ignored his claims that a medical resident got him drunk and engaged in sexual activity with him when he was incapacitated from too much alcohol. Instead, the university credited the claims of the resident that Dr. Abraham sexually assaulted her and forced Dr. Abraham to resign from his teaching position.

Consequences Beyond Title IX

Here, the verdict was so high because a physician has proven monetary damages when subjected to false accusations and gender discrimination. Indeed, when we have represented medical professions, we explain that a finding of responsibility for a Title IX matter can be just the beginning of legal headaches. After the Title IX matter is concluded, many doctors may face their employers determining whether they violated various professionalism clauses or ethical tenets of the institution that can lead to termination from employment and revocation of working privileges.  In addition, many hospitals may report infractions to licensing boards and third party payer networks, which can hamper a doctor’s ability to work.

Our Experience

We thought we were cutting edge when we wrote the article about Title IX applying to medical residents. At that time, we had no idea that a large part of our practice would be dedicated to working with doctors involved in these matters. We are seasoned on these issues and use our experience to help navigate the many challenges attendant to these matters.

For personalized guidance on Title IX matters discussed in the article above, connect with KJK’s experienced Student & Athlete Defense attorneys. To explore solutions tailored to your situation, reach out to Susan Stone at SCS@kjk.com or 216.736.7220, or Kristina Supler at KWS@kjk.com or 216.736.7217.