December 04, 2016

19 Former Psychiatry Faculty Sue Dartmouth Over Layoffs

Nineteen former faculty members of the psychiatry department at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine have filed a lawsuit alleging that the college violated their employment contracts and college policy that entitled them to severance payments when it laid them off.
Diana Lawrence, a college spokeswoman, said officials had no comment on the lawsuit.
The dispute is the latest to arise in the wake of the college’s moves to erase what officials had estimated was an annual deficit approaching $30 million at Geisel.
As part of what officials described as a restructuring, Geisel’s entire psychiatry department was transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Most of the department’s clinical research faculty and staff were let go by the college and hired by the medical center.
“Responsibility for the employment, finances, and operational support for clinical research programs, as well as the clinical practice of psychiatry” was transferred to D-H on July 1, according to the college’s audited financial statement.
The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Grafton Superior Court by Norwich attorney Geoffrey Vitt, says that in April 2016, Geisel informed the plaintiffs and most other faculty in the psychiatry department that their positions were being eliminated.
“Some, but not all, affected employees” were offered jobs at D-H, the lawsuit says.
D-H is a health system with ties to Dartmouth but has its own financial and governance structures.
Employees who left Dartmouth and went to work at D-H found “material differences in the compensation and benefits” at the health system, the lawsuit alleges.
About 250 employees of Geisel’s psychiatry department and clinical research units got jobs at D-H, according to D-H’s audited financial statement for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
That year, Dartmouth posted a $112 million loss from operations that included a $53.5 million charge for “restructuring expenses” at Geisel for such items as severance pay, endowment transfers, rents and the services of consultants, according to the financial statement.
That cost could rise if the former Dartmouth psychiatry faculty members prevail in their lawsuit.
The former employees who signed on to the lawsuit, including 12 physicians and three full professors, had a combined 211 years of employment at the college, according to their complaint.
Those hired before June 20, 2011, are entitled to two weeks of pay for each year of service, up to 52 weeks, according to the lawsuit, which cites a Dartmouth “separation of employment” policy. The roster of plaintiffs in the lawsuit includes 12 faculty members with service ranging from nine to 27 years. That same policy entitles more recently hired employees to at least two weeks of pay, or to one week of pay for each year of service, up to 26 weeks, the lawsuit says.
The policy guarantees all of those laid off a cash payment equal to the college’s contribution over three months to their health plans, the lawsuit says.
“Nothing in the layoff policies excludes PhD or MD-level employees,” the lawsuit says.

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