BNSK client Dr. Aysha Khoury files civil rights lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine.

Medical School Instructor Sues Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine After Being Fired for Talking About Racism in Medicine 

Aysha Khoury, M.D. today filed a Charge of Discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, followed by a lawsuit in Superior Court against Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine (KPSOM) for discharging her from her faculty position after she facilitated a class on racism in medicine and mobilized her colleagues to address the institution’s bias.  

Plaintiff is seeking monetary damages and institutional policy changes that protect KPSOM employees from race-gender discrimination.

“Dr. Khoury has courageously spoken out to hold Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine accountable for its bias against Black women doctors and its abandonment of stated values of equity and inclusion in medicine and medical education,” said representing attorney Lisa Holder, “This is textbook tokenism, race-gender discrimination and whistleblower retaliation that must be sanctioned.”

On August 28, 2020, Dr. Khoury facilitated a small group session on racially disparate treatment of black patients in medicine and spoke from the heart about her own experiences with bias.  Nine hours later the KPSOM administration discharged her from her teaching duties and told her they did not want to see her, pending an investigation into her classroom activities.  

Dr. Khoury’s small group students reported that none of them complained to the school, that the class represented the most enlightening hour of their medical school education – one that would resonate with them throughout their medical careers, and that Dr. Khoury was profoundly needed to achieve KPSOM’s stated DEI mission. 

Although the KPSOM investigation found that Dr. Khoury did nothing wrong in the classroom, leading to her reinstatement with the Kaiser Medical Group as a clinical physician, KPSOM refused to reinstate her to the faculty. To the contrary, after Dr. Khoury notified her colleagues via social media of the discrimination and lack of due process, KPSOM further retaliated against her by reversing its offer to extend her contract and permanently discharging her.   

Scores of leaders in the medical field and thousands of individuals across the country have submitted petitions to KPSOM demanding Dr. Khoury’s reinstatement. Also, prospective students are rejecting KPSOM’s offers of tuition-free matriculation to protest the School’s discrimination.

Alarming racial biases in health care have surfaced in the midst of a pandemic that shines the spotlight on the contributions of doctors and the disproportionate Covid-19 death toll in communities of color.  Recent studies show black women are four times more likely than white women to die of child-birth related illnesses and black newborns are three times more likely to die if they are delivered by a white physicians.  These jarring disparities underscore the need for greater diversity in medicine, a field where only five percent of physicians are black.  Plaintiff’s attorney Lisa Holder contends, “Discarding a black physician without due process is uniquely disturbing when placed in this systemic context.”

Plaintiff’s attorney Nathan M. Smith, of Brown, Neri, Smith and Khan LLP stated, “the School’s conduct not only violates KPSOM’s mission to promote equity in medicine, but also violates California public policy that promotes bias elimination in medical training.”

Plaintiff filed a contemporaneous complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. 

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