UW Health board sued over alleged unfair treatment of female physicians

An anesthesiologist at UW Health in Madison, Wis., filed a lawsuit March 13 against the health system's board of regents and the former head of the anesthesiology department, claiming the institution failed to provide equal opportunity and created a hostile work environment for female physicians, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.

Four things to know:

1. The plaintiff Maria Fabbrocini, MD, is seeking class-action status on behalf of all 32 female physicians who worked in UW Health's anesthesiology department since 2013.

2. Dr. Fabbrocini began her tenure at UW Health in 2008. In her lawsuit, she claims that the head of the department, Robert Pearce, MD, PhD, created a hostile work environment for female physicians, denying part-time employees the opportunity to be considered for leadership roles and failing to discipline male physicians with a history of abuse toward women, among other issues. Dr. Pearce stepped down from his leadership role in the summer of 2006, but continued on as a staff member.

3. Dr. Fabbrocini's legal action came after a 2017 university report — based on a "climate review" conducted February through August 2017 — found the department must recruit more female residents, re-examine its pay structures and mentor female leaders to improve the department's male-centric culture, according to the report.

"It is abundantly clear that the issue profoundly influences the workplace experiences of many female faculty and residents: If they lack [or perceive a lack of] equal opportunities for leadership, mentoring or other career enhancers, and/or they are subjected to differential treatment that often is demeaning and pointedly directed to their status as women, they are not having the same experience as their male colleagues," the report found.

4. A UW Health spokesperson told the publication the institution could not comment on the lawsuit: "The [medical] school is fully committed to upholding a safe, just and supportive environment for all faculty, students and staff."

To access the full report, click here.

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