Share This Page

Doctor wins $3.1 million in discrimination suit against UPMC

Standing up for other female doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute cost Dr. Kristina Gerszten her job, a federal jury decided yesterday.

The eight-person jury awarded Gerszten $3.1 million in damages and pay arising from her discrimination lawsuit.

Gerszten, 46, of Squirrel Hill said the verdict validates her three-year battle with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center affiliate and the administrator she said tried to destroy her career.

"The administration tried to cover his tracks, and I hope this scenario is never again repeated," she said.

She now works as a radiation oncologist for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

UPMC spokesman Paul Wood declined comment on the jury verdict and award.

"We are reviewing our options," he said.

Gerszten worked as a radiation oncologist for UPMC from 1992 until May 31, 2007.

She started questioning how her colleagues were being treated in 2006. She specifically complained the hospital was passing them over to give promotions and prestigious positions to less-experienced male doctors. The hospital only made a superficial examination of her complaints, said her lawyer, Colleen Ramage Johnston.

"UPMC launched a sham investigation into those allegations," she said.

The hospital then let the administrator she was complaining about, Dr. Dwight Heron, decide Gerszten's fate, Johnston said.

Heron passed Gerszten over for medical director positions at UPMC St. Margaret and the Cancer Center in the Natrona Heights section of Harrison. He also declined to renew or renegotiate her contract in 2007.

"It was pretty obvious that this was retaliation," Johnston said.

Heron couldn't be reached for comment.

The jury awarded Gerszten $200,000 in compensatory damages, $1.6 million in back pay, $827,000 in front pay and $500,000 in punitive damages.

Johnston said federal law limits punitive damages to $300,000, so the $500,000 award will reduce automatically. U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab also can change the compensation awards recommended by the jury, she said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.