A former chief of internal medicine at Yale University Health Services is suing the center and its top officials for age and disability discrimination.
Dr. Jon Fessel ’59 MED ’63 of Fairfield claims his former employer and healthcare provider failed to treat the depression he suffered following a heart attack in 1999. He alleges Yale then used his disability to justify cutting his salary and refused to rehire him after his disability leave ended, unfairly breaching his employment contract and inflicting emotional distress.
Fessel, 68, seeks to reclaim his job, in addition to lost wages, benefits and punitive damages.
In his complaint — submitted to U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill in Bridgeport last month — Fessel also names YUHS director Dr. Paul Genecin, medical director Dr. Alan Greenglass, chief of internal medicine Dr. Ravi Dravasula, associate director for clinical affairs Dr. Moreson Kaplan and University director of compensation and client support Katherine Matzkin as codefendants in the suit.
Attorney Patrick Noonan, who is representing the defendants, submitted a notice of appearance to the court Friday. He said Yale plans to contest the lawsuit but declined to comment further on the suit. University spokesman Tom Conroy also declined to discuss the case at length.
“We believe the complaint is without merit,” Conroy said. “We don’t have additional comment at this time.”
Fessel said his work at YUHS put him in good standing with his colleagues and patients.
During his tenure as chief of internal medicine, which began in 1985, he served as primary physician for many prominent members of the Yale community, including senior faculty and administrators at the University and School of Medicine, Fessel said. Though he received peer nominations for YUHS Physician of the Year and commendation from the deputy director in 2002, Fessel said Greenglass gave him “below average” performance ratings that year, without basis.
He declined to elaborate further on the lawsuit.
“The complaint speaks for itself,” Fessel said.
In his lawsuit, Fessel claims YUHS began regular discrimination against older members of its administration during the 1990s, replacing them with physicians more than a decade younger. The complaint states that Genecin, then 37 years old, replaced Fessel as internal medicine chief in 1991.
The complaint states that Fessel had been denied testing and treatment for severe depression since 2000 — when his primary physician left YUHS — even though doctors at the center were aware of his condition. Fessel also claims his doctor’s recommendation that he stop working night and weekend shifts led to a salary cut the same year.
He has since been treated by a psychiatry professor who is not affiliated with YUHS.
Fessel claims YUHS attempted to fire him in January 2003 for prescribing medication to treat migraines and back problems in two of his patients because it put the individuals “at risk of motor vehicle accident or overdose,” even though one of the patients had been similarly treated by another YUHS physician. One month later YUHS retracted its decision to fire Fessel and instead issued a “final warning.”
Fessel said he was not rehired by YUHS after his disability leave ended last year, even though his original employment contract stated he would be reappointed as physician every two years, unless the health center could demonstrate cause for firing him.
Fessel’s attorney, Judith Ravel of Guilford, declined to comment for this article.