MENU HomeHistoryAttorneysNewsLiving JusticePhilanthropyMembersTom Kline Settles Chester County, PA, Cancer Death Lawsuit Angela Stone Mark Davis: Federal Judge Rules Mother Can Sue U.S. Army in Child's Beating Death Charla Aldous: Dallas Jury Awards Muslim Doctor 3.6M from UT Southwestern Steve Yerrid: Legal Taskforce to Deal with BP Oil Spill Larry Grassini: Grieving Parents Triumph over 'Goliath.' Couple Wins Lawsuit over Rental Car Company Blamed for Daughters' 2004 Deaths Steve Yerrid July 2010 Lawdragon Lawyer Limelight Charla Aldous: Fees for All: Judge Approves Nearly $500,000 for Counsel Who Won Title VII Suit Roger Pardieck: Floyd Jury Awards $23 Million in Lawsuit Against Apartment Complex John H. Norman: $62M Settlement Reached in Oklahoma Turnpike Deaths Case Tom Girardi: Farmers Agrees to Pay $545 Million to End Claims It Overcharged Policyholders Tom Rhodes: Jury Finds Nursing Home Negligent

Charla Aldous: Dallas jury awards Muslim doctor $3.6M from UT Southwestern

12:00 AM CDT on Thursday, May 27, 2010

UT Southwestern Medical Center should pay more than $3.6 million to a doctor who said he faced

discrimination and retaliation after resisting pressure to commit billing fraud, a federal jury decided


The jury took only about an hour to put a price tag on the racial and religious

persecution that it concluded was suffered by AIDS clinician Naiel Nassar,

an Egyptian-born Muslim.

UT Southwestern, which lists diversity among its core values, denied

mistreating Nassar and quickly vowed to appeal.

"We are greatly disappointed by the jury's decision and do not believe it

reflects the fairness with which UT Southwestern approached Dr. Nassar's

employment," the center said in a statement.

Nassar, a U.S. citizen, traced his problems to 2004, when UT Southwestern

made Dr. Beth Levine chief of infectious disease medicine. She drove him to

quit by 2006, Nassar said in a 2008 lawsuit.

Levine wanted Nassar to bill insurers for some of his services, "which is

illegal because Dr. Nassar's salary was fully funded by a federal grant," the

lawsuit alleged. "If UTSW were allowed to bill for the salaried position of one of its professors that is

fully funded by the taxpayers, then UTSW would be, as the saying goes, 'double dipping.' "

Levine told Nassar that she thought people from the Middle East were lazy and questioned his direct

supervisor about his productivity, the suit said. Questions allegedly included "Is he really working?" and

"Is he billing enough?"


Dr. Philip Keiser supervised the Parkland HIV-AIDS clinic where Nassar worked. In a sworn affidavit,

he described "a disconnect between Dr. Levine's statements and the reality of Dr. Nassar's work."

He said Nassar saw more patients than any other doctor at the clinic, which has historically relied on UT

Southwestern to provide its medical staff.

The Keiser affidavit added that Levine "made it clear to me that she was Jewish and that she believed I was Jewish also," although he is Christian.

Keiser said he recommended a Pakistani-born Muslim for the job after Nassar left. Levine offered the

man an unattractively low salary and ultimately hired a less qualified white doctor for more money, he


Levine said she was "stunned" by the racial and religious allegations.

"The accusations or suggestions that I ever disparaged people from the Middle East, disfavored Muslims

or Christians, or disfavored employing people from other countries, including Pakistan, are false

accusations," she said in a sworn affidavit. The word false was underlined.

Levine's affidavit did not address the billing allegations. UT Southwestern officials declined to answer

questions Wednesday.

Keiser, now at UT Medical Branch at Galveston, said UT Southwestern tried to remove him from his

clinic job because he supported Nassar.

UT Southwestern hired Nassar in 2001. He was promoted in spring 2006, on Levine's recommendation.

"He is an outstanding clinician whose accomplishments in clinical medicine far exceed his rank of

assistant professor," she wrote to her boss.

But Nassar said he felt so uncomfortable by that point that he sought to become a Parkland employee

while continuing to work at the clinic.

Parkland job

Court records show that Parkland made preparations to hire him, going so far as drafting a job offer

letter. UT Southwestern learned of Nassar's desire to switch employers and balked, citing a longstanding

written agreement giving it the right to provide all physician services at Parkland.

Dr. Samuel Ross, then Parkland's chief medical officer, never signed or sent the job offer. Ross

announced his resignation in June 2006 and took a hospital management job in Baltimore; he did not

respond to interview requests.

Nassar submitted his resignation letter in early July 2006, listing "continuing harassment and

discrimination" by Levine. He addressed the letter to her boss and copied other senior officials at UT

Southwestern, including then-president Dr. Kern Wildenthal.

"Over the past year, I have been threatened with denial of promotion, loss of salary support and

potentially loss of my job," Nassar wrote. "The stated reason for these threats was a lack of productivity

in seeing patients."

He added that he had "spoken to other physicians of Middle Eastern origin who have faced similar

barriers to hiring and/or retention with the Division of Infectious Diseases."

Soon, Nassar complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  It concluded in 2008

there was "reason to believe" he had been the victim of retaliation.

Later that year, Nassar sued UT Southwestern, Parkland, Levine and her supervisor, Dr. Greg Fitz.  Fitz
was chairman of the UT Southwestern department of medicine then and now is dean of the medical

U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle eventually dismissed the cases against Parkland and the doctors.
Parkland officials declined to comment Wednesday.

The judge could alter the jury award, which includes about $438,000 for back pay and nearly $3.2

million in other damages.

UT Southwestern's statement said the damage claims were "grossly inflated" by Nassar's lawyers and

"not supported by the testimony or by documentary evidence."

Nassar now works in Fresno as an infectious disease specialist for the University of California.

He told The News he had not expected a Dallas jury to support him as a Muslim.

The eight-person jury included four white men and four women, three of whom are black. None

commented after the trial.

"This case really makes me be proud to be a U.S. citizen," Nassar said.

web site design by skyfire studio