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UCLA loses lawsuit

By Narges Zohoury

August 8, 2004 9:00 pm

A former UCLA clinical instructor was awarded $2.95 million July
27 in a sexual discrimination and retaliation case that was filed
against the university in 2003.

The judgment was made in favor of Dr. Janet Conney, who worked
with the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and biobehavioral science
from 1999 to 2002.

The jury found Conney had been discriminated against on the
basis of her sex when she opted for a promotion. Also, it found
UCLA retaliated against Conney when she reported this
discrimination to her superiors.

Conney said she complained to two particular individuals in the
department, in both verbal and written form, but her case was never

According to a university press release, UCLA officials have
denied all the allegations and believe that when Conney’s
staff position came to an end in 2002, she was given a “full
and fair” opportunity to interview for the assistant clinical
professor position she desired, but she chose not to pursue it.

Conney’s case was proved based on testimonies by other
members of the same department.

Still, the university disagrees and believes the presented
evidence were insufficient.

“The university respectfully disagrees with the verdict,
and we do not believe it was supported by the evidence,” said
James E. Holst, the university’s general counsel, in the same
press release. “We intend to seek relief from the court and,
if necessary, the Court of Appeal.”

James Autrey, one of the attorneys who represented Conney,
explained that the university could either motion for a new trial,
which is often denied, or has 30 days to file an appeal.

If an appeal is filed, the case could take as long as one year
to go through the hearings, Autrey said, explaining that interest
would have to be paid on the sum in the event the case is held up
in higher courts.

According to transcripts from the proceedings, women were
required to earn their salaries by seeing patients, whereas men
were receiving money straight from the department budget.

Autrey said women and men were given the same title and salary,
yet women had to work a lot more for their salary, as they had very
little or no base salary that came straight from the department

He added that these additional duties acted as a “glass
ceiling” for the women.

Today, Conney has a private practice in West Los Angeles and
believes that if this problem had not occurred she would still be
in academia. She said for the amount of time she had spent in the
field she had been successful. “I had already published three
papers and secured three research grants,” Conney said.

“I know I can never return to that environment. “¦ I
feel robbed,” she added.

The American Association of University Women, an organization of
which Conney was a member, helped her with her legal fees. The
organization is active in ensuring that the rights of university
women are not violated.

Conney said the group’s support went beyond a financial

“They let me know I wasn’t alone,” she said.
“They gave me financial and emotional support.”

Conney believes problems like her own are a result of values
imbedded in the culture of academic medicine in which men often
dominate the higher positions. She hopes other women would not have
to go through what she did.

“It’s been a long ordeal. “¦ I feel finally
vindicated,” Conney said, adding that it took a neutral third
party ““ in this case a jury ““ to see all the evidence
and what she perceives is the truth.

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Narges Zohoury
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