Black Doc Sues UCLA, Cites Racist Treatment

A lawyer for the doctor at the center of the "gorilla slide" viral video spoke with The Root.

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The complaint, filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, details the allegations, but according to Foley, the case is simple. In her words, "It's about a very reputable doctor who has been punished for reporting what he believed was discrimination and harassment to his boss, to management, to the chancellors and to the regent, and who has been retaliated against beyond measure since then."  

The Root talked to Foley about the "intolerable" atmosphere that she says Head continues to face at UCLA, the outpouring of support from the black UCLA community and what's next in the courtroom and in her client's career.

The Root: The "gorilla slide," as it's called in Dr. Head's complaint, is the most talked-about aspect of this case. Can you put it in the context of his entire experience at UCLA?

Shannon Foley: That was just one of many events. It was the culmination of years of discrimination ... and, in fact, things have continued since then. He's treated differently than other doctors there, to this day. 

 TR: So Dr. Head is still at work at UCLA?

SF: He's still there. Things are very difficult, and almost intolerable. They are intolerable. He's experienced an escalation of a lot of the retaliatory and discriminatory events -- for example, lack of coverage by residents. Other doctors have coverage by residents and he does not, in his surgeries and for emergency situations with patients. No other doctors have that experience [of being denied coverage by residents].

With every other doctor, if there's a resident there on staff, the resident will cover for them. But he's made to come in each and every time, in the middle of the night, any time. And he does. He takes care of his patients.

TR: Does he plan to stay on regardless of the outcome of the litigation?

SF: He's doing his best to cover [his patients], and it's becoming increasingly difficult. I can't tell whether he'll be able to do that.

TR: The complaint says Dr. Head was referred to as an "affirmative action hire" and an "affirmative action case." Is that something you hear often in your work on employment-discrimination matters?