A partial settlement of a lawsuit against UNC and Duke University filed in 2015 was granted initial approval by a federal judge in October.
The lawsuit, filed by former Duke professor Dr. Danielle Seaman, alleges that Duke and UNC’s medical schools and health systems entered into an agreement not to hire each other’s faculty. Dean Harvey, attorney for Seaman and the proposed litigation class, said this agreement resulted in the suppression of faculty pay.
Seaman filed the lawsuit after not receiving a radiologist faculty position at UNC School of Medicine. Seaman alleged the chief of cardiothoracic imaging at UNC said he was prohibited from hiring her because of the agreement between the schools, after stating she would be a good fit for the position.
The proposed litigation class includes anyone who was either a faculty member or a skilled medical employee of the defendants between 2012 and 2016, Harvey said.
The lawsuit says the defendants violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by entering into this agreement without the knowledge of their employees.
“Because Duke/DUHS and UNC/UNC Health are the two largest academic medical systems in North Carolina, and indeed two of the largest employers in the state, their no-hire agreement has reduced competition for medical facility faculty and certain staff, thereby suppressing faculty and staff pay,” the lawsuit reads.
Harvey said the litigation class has been notified of the proposed settlement now that the court has granted preliminary approval. The next step is for the group to request final settlement approval from the court.
Duke has not entered into a settlement with the litigation class, Harvey said.
“Duke opposed (the motion to certify a litigation class) and now we are preparing our reply, which will be the last stage in terms of briefing the court,” Harvey said. “After that, the court will consider the evidence and make a decision.”
The settlement prevents UNC from entering into agreements like the aforementioned agreement between the universities in the future and requires all UNC parties to terminate any potential violations that could arise.
The lawsuit also requires UNC to provide discovery when necessary in the ongoing suit against the Duke defendants.
“This discovery cooperation includes making witnesses available for deposition or interviews, searching and providing documents and electronically stored information from 23 agreed-upon UNC custodians, and producing employee data,” the settlement says.
Harvey said the case against Duke and the settlement should be concluded by the beginning of 2018.
“The court has scheduled a hearing about this where they can hear arguments on January 4,” he said. “Once this takes place the court will decide.”
Following the settlement, the plaintiff will drop litigation against UNC.
Harvey said the lawsuit against the schools is the only case of this nature he is aware of.
“After working on this case for two years I have not seen another like it,” he said. “It’s very unusual.”
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