Four former employees of Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine have sued the school and its leadership, alleging that hiring decisions were based on sexism and ageism and that the employees were discriminated against in favor of young men.
The lawsuit centers on the leadership of the Arnhold Institute for Global Health, which is part of the Icahn School of Medicine, and the hiring decisions made by the school’s dean, Dr. Dennis Charney. Aside from Dr. Charney, the suit charges other leaders including Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Bruno Silva, and David Berman for discriminating behavior. This, according to a news release from the firm representing the former employees, McAllister Olivarius. They are three women and one man.
According to the lawsuit, the school received a $12.5 million commitment in 2014 from the Arnholds, a prominent banking family, to expand the team’s work. Dr. Charney hired Prabhjot Singh, an “inexperienced 32-year-old still completing his residency,” as director of the institute. The decision went against the advice of a search committee that had already recommended a highly qualified female candidate, according to the news release.
The former employees accuse Dr. Charney of having a “well-established pattern of favoring young men who lacked the background or experience needed to do the difficult jobs into which they were suddenly thrust.”
Several men who were hired into leadership positions were named in the lawsuit, including a prominent mathematician, a man who was hired to lead cancer research, a man who was the chair of the pharmacology department, among others.
“While some of them are undoubtedly talented, there is now a considerable track record of these unrealistic initiatives failing at the cost of tens of millions of dollars, partly because several of them have been run by underqualified and inexperienced young men with whom Charney was nevertheless besotted,” the former employees said in the lawsuit.
One of the former employees who brought the lawsuit, Dr. Natasha Anushri Anandaraj, charged that during a meeting with a new boss, Dr. Abdulrahman El-Sayed, who was younger than her, he said that he was excited to not work with anyone over the age of 40. She was 41 at the time. When El-Sayed left the job, it was not offered to Anandaraja, even though she had been performing the job duties for years, according to the lawsuit. At that time, Singh, who was hired by Dr. Charney, hired a younger man to replace El-Sayed.
“Singh’s message was clear: young men were valuable and older women were not,” the former employees claimed.
Other women over the age of 40 were treated similarly and Singh would verbally “berate” them and “denigrate” their accomplishments, according to the lawsuit.
Each of the men named in the suit participated in discrimination, the plaintiffs alleged.
Berman, chief of staff at the Arnhold Institute, was accused of “screaming furiously” at women at the institute. Silva, a manager who led the design team at the institute, was accused of calling women demeaning words, and making disparaging remarks about their appearance, according to the lawsuit.
“Between Singh’s gaslighting and denigration backed by Charney, Berman’s angry outbursts and Silva’s abusive name-calling, the Plaintiffs each suffered damage to their well-being and mental health,” the former employees said.
Although Silva’s comments mostly targeted women, he also made racial slurs against one of the employees, Humale Khan, a Pakistani Muslim man, and criticized him for not drinking and for going to pray, the employees alleged. He also made comments when in the same room as Khan, saying it “smells like curry in here.”
“He became anxious about smelling bad and started buying and applying multiple deodorants and chewing gum excessively,” the plaintiffs said in the complaint.
The school maintains that the claims are baseless.
A spokesperson for Mount Sinai Health System provided the following statement:
“This new litigation brought forth against Mount Sinai and Arnhold Institute for Global Health is a continuation of baseless discrimination and retaliation claims. The plaintiffs’ claims were dismissed in previous litigation and they are recycling old claims into this new one. We will continue to vigorously defend ourselves in this case.”
Three of the former employees in this lawsuit brought a similar suit against the school in 2019. The same law firm represented them. And in January, a district judge in New York denied in part Mount Sinai’s motion to dismiss the case. The judge removed four plaintiffs from the case and allowed four to continue and move forward with the case.
According to their LinkedIn profiles, Dr. Charney is still the dean of the Icahn School of Medicine and Prabhjot Singh is now an associate clinical professor of medicine at the school. Bruno Silva and David Berman have left Mount Sinai.
Photo: fstop123, Getty Images