BY RUTHANN RICHTER
A federal court jury March 30 found in favor of Colleen Crangle, PhD, a former senior research scientist in medical informatics, who claimed that she was laid off from her job in 1997 because she had complained of gender discrimination.
The university immediately announced its intention to appeal.
U.S. District Judge James Ware had previously ruled that there was no evidence that Stanford had discriminated against Crangle and dismissed her claim that she had been treated differently because she was a woman. The sole issue given to the four-woman, four-man jury was not whether Crangle had been discriminated against, but whether she had been subject to retaliation because of her discrimination complaint. The jury found for Crangle on this issue, awarding her $245,000 in lost wages and medical expenses and the maximum $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
"Obviously we are disappointed with the jury's verdict," said Debra Zumwalt, Stanford's acting general counsel. "Our position throughout has been that the decisions made by Crangle's supervisors in the School of Medicine had nothing to do with her gender and nothing to do with any of the complaints she made."
During the two-week trial, Stanford attorney Michael Lucey presented evidence that Crangle was laid off -- along with four male researchers -- because her grant funding had expired.
Crangle first came to Stanford in early 1995 as a part-time consultant in human-computer speech interface and worked on several projects before being offered a full-time position in the division of Medical Informatics (SMI): July 1996. The position was to be for a fixed term ending September 1997, although funding for one of the projects -- a breast cancer information project -- was due to end before that time.
Crangle claimed in her lawsuit that she was given second-class status within the division and was demoted to a position in which she reported to a male colleague who had the title of senior research scientist, like herself. Her attorney, Dan Siegel, argued in court that when she complained about "intolerable" working conditions, she was laid off from her position in March 1997.
Lucey argued in court that Crangle's colleagues in medical informatics had made every effort to find additional funding for her when it became clear that her grant was about to run out. In fact, she was offered a position in January 1997 with SUMMIT -- a project she had previously worked on -- but she refused the offer, even though she knew she would be laid off if she did not accept the assignment, Lucey said.
Lucey also told the jury that Crangle had been asked to report to another senior research scientist in the lab because he had a medical degree, in addition to a PhD, and years of experience and contacts in the field -- all of which Crangle lacked. Lucey also noted that no one else in the 70-person lab had complained about the atmosphere at SMI.
In a separate action, Stanford has
been informed that Crangle is one of nine women who have filed a
complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging gender and racial
discrimination in hiring and promotion of women and minority
faculty. Over the past year, Stanford has been cooperating in the
federal investigation. SR