Yale School of Medicine cardiology professor Michael Simons — who alleged that Yale breached contract when the University stripped him of the endowed Waldemar Von Zedtwitz chair last December — withdrew his lawsuit Jan. 3 without cost or compensation.
Faculty members, alumni and students at the School of Medicine went into an uproar last summer when the University awarded Simons a new chair after the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct found Simons responsible for sexually harassing a junior colleague in 2013. Following the University’s decision to strip him of the chair, Simons filed a complaint and an injunction to the Connecticut Superior Court on Sept. 21, contending that Yale caved into “the rage of activists” and breached his contract. According to court documents, Simons’ application for injunction was denied by the court.
In a statement to the News, Simons’ attorney Norm Pattis said the lawsuit — which was intended to seek immediate injunctive relief — is now moot. Pattis added that Simons also has pending complaints in the Department of Education, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
“We will be filing a money damages suit in federal court later this month,” Pattis stated. “Our withdrawal was an administrative formality.”
Simons and University spokesman Tom Conroy did not respond to request for comment on Friday.
Pattis did not respond to questions about the status of Simons’ complaints in the Department of Education, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
According to the Department of Education website, the Office for Civil Rights can investigate alleged violations of Title VI — which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin — and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. If the Office for Civil Rights finds a violation of civil rights laws, it will facilitate a resolution agreement between the complainant and the recipient of the complaint, per the agency’s website. The agency can suspend, terminate or refuse to grant federal financial assistance if the recipient fails to comply with the terms of resolution.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website states that the agency has 180 days to investigate after a formal complaint is filed. The status of Simons’ complaints against Yale are unclear.
On Nov. 19, Yale filed a motion to dismiss Simons’ lawsuit, claiming that his complaint is “fatally defective and insufficient.” The memorandum in support of the University’s motion argued that Simons did not comply with the legal requirements for filing a complaint and an application for an injunction.
While the statutory requirement is that the plaintiff sign the complaint in person, Simons’ complaint was only “purportedly signed by the plaintiff,” per court documents. Yale’s memorandum states that under Simons’ purported signature in the complaint, Pattis wrote “subscribed to and sworn before me this 21st day of September 2018 via telephone.”
The memorandum also contended that neither the complaint nor the application “seeks any relief other than the injunctive relief that was denied” and noted that Simons has filed no amendment or further pleading to date.
But at the time, Pattis told the News that the memorandum, in fact, demonstrates that “Yale’s hands are unclean.” When Alpern issued Simons an “ultimatum” on Sept. 20 — which stated that Simons had to either resign from the chair by noon on Sept. 21 or have the appointment taken from him — Simons was not given sufficient time to file a complaint, Pattis said.
In a statement to the News last month, chairs of the School of Medicine’s Committee on the Status of Women in Medicine, Nina Stachenfeld and Elizabeth Jonas, said “the energy surrounding [Simons’ lawsuit] is going to inspire the university and the Med School to look harder at [issues of sexual misconduct]” regardless of the outcome of one lawsuit.
In a 2017 report published in December 2017, the Women’s Faculty Forum recommended that the University reconsider allowing faculty members found responsible for sexual misconduct to retain their endowed professorships.
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org .