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Mount Sinai Named in State Lawsuit Claiming Workplace Discrimination and Retaliation

NEW YORK (Oct 24, 2022) – Four pioneers of the Arnhold Institute for Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital have filed a lawsuit in New York State Court alleging workplace discrimination and retaliation. The lawsuit, filed by transatlantic law firm McAllister Olivarius, targets Mount Sinai Health System; Dr. Dennis Charney, Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine; Dr. Prabhjot Singh, former Director of the Arnhold Institute; and two managers under Singh, Bruno Silva, and David Berman, for discrimination on the grounds of gender, age, race, nationality, and religion.

The plaintiffs are four former employees of the Arnhold Institute for Global Health at Mount Sinai who helped build the Institute’s nationally recognized program in global health education. They include Dr. Natasha Anushri Anandaraja; Dr. Holly Atkinson; Mary Caliendo; and Humale Khan. According to the lawsuit, after the school received a $12.5 million commitment from the Arnhold family to expand the team’s work in 2014, Dr. Dennis S. Charney, the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine and President for Academic Affairs of MSHS hired Dr. Prabhjot Singh as Director of the Arnhold Institute for Global Health. He was then an inexperienced 32-year-old still completing his residency. Singh’s hiring came against the advice of a search committee that had previously recommended a highly qualified female candidate.

Upon taking the position, Dr. Singh declared that he only wanted to work with young people and set about denigrating and humiliating the Institute’s existing employees of mostly older women. The allegations of discrimination and retaliation include:

  • Dr. Singh continuously “gaslit” existing female staff so that they would “voluntarily” leave. By 2018, 13 women had left AIGH.
  • The individuals hired for leadership positions under Dr. Charney and Singh were overwhelmingly young men who were given more prestigious titles and were paid substantially more.
  • Plaintiff Mary Caliendo often heard Singh describe normal differences of opinion between female staff as “girl catfights.”
  • Defendant David Berman, Singh’s chief of staff, was known for furious screaming at women at AIGH, heard by everyone in the office, which Singh nonchalantly ignored. 
  • Defendant Bruno Silva, an employee of Mount Sinai, regularly called women “bitches” and “cunts”—these were fellow employees, donors, and women from other parts of Mount Sinai—and made constant disparaging remarks about their appearance.
  • Silva also repeatedly slurred Plaintiff Humale Khan, who is of Pakistani origin and Muslim, making denigrating comments when Khan observed Muslim customs, saying that the office they shared “smelled like shit” or “smelled like curry.”
  • Exchanges with the female candidate initially recommended by the search committee, that included Dr. Charney speaking abusively to her on the phone and sending an e-mail to her calling her an “IDIOT” in bold red capital letters

“Despite these and other allegations repeatedly being brought to Mount Sinai’s leadership, the lawsuit contends the school took a “see no evil” approach. Oversight Committee was created to help address the issue but met infrequently and did not noticeably change things during Dr. Singh’s directorship.”

“The lack of oversight by Mount Sinai on Dr. Singh and Dean Charney has not only created a hostile and inhumane work environment for our clients that has had a damaging impact on their professional careers, but has also severely damaged an institute that was previously internationally recognized as a leader in global health education,” said Jef McAllister, Co-Founding Partner at McAllister Olivarius who represents the plaintiffs in this matter. “We look forward to holding Mount Sinai accountable for their flagrant violations of the laws of New York State and New York City.”

This lawsuit is the latest to be brought against Mount Sinai by alleging workplace discrimination and retaliation by Dr. Charney. In April, Dr. Ann Marie Beddoe, an Associate Professor at Mount Sinai claimed she was the victim of retaliatory discrimination after providing testimony favorable to plaintiffs in an earlier federal complaint against Dr. Charney and other senior Mount Sinai employees accused of sex, race and age discrimination.

Last January in related cases, The Hon. Vernon S. Broderick of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York allowed four plaintiffs’ claims against the school for age, sex, and race discrimination to proceed to the discovery phase in federal court. Judge Broderick did dismiss plaintiffs Anandariaja, Atkinson, Mary Calieno and Kahn’s federal lawsuit, however the plaintiffs have refiled invoking New York State and City law with this action.

The plaintiffs hope that their stories will inspire others to take on injustices in their own workplaces and help continue to transform Mount Sinai and other medical institutions across the nation.

“Our hope is that this legal process will result in a more equitable work environment for all at Mount Sinai and in academic medicine nationally, especially for gender minorities and BIPOC,” said Dr. Natasha Anushri Anandaraja, one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. “We will continue in our efforts to address the pervasive racism and sexism that exists in our healthcare systems.”

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James Wood
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