Six female physicians who work in the Yale Department of Anesthesiology have filed a lawsuit against Dr. Manuel Fontes for alleged sexual harassment.
The plaintiffs claim that Fontes, an anesthesiologist and a professor at Yale’s School of Medicine, subjected them to repeated incidents of forced and unwanted kissing, groping and retaliation for rejecting these unwanted actions.
The plaintiffs also alleged that Fontes made inappropriate comments about their bodies and would retaliate against them for not putting up with his behavior, including making false claims to superiors about their job performance being poor.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs submitted complaints about Fontes’ behavior to multiple administrators, including Anesthesiology Chair Roberta Hines. In July 2019, plaintiff Elizabeth Reinhart told Hines that Fontes touched her and massaged her without her consent. Hines allegedly excused the behavior by saying, “boys will be boys.”
“This lawsuit is intended to finally give a voice to those women whose stories of harrowing sexual misconduct at Yale University have been stifled for far too long, and to bring about justice against both the powerful men that have targeted them, and those at the University who have protected and supported these men,” the suit says.
Tanvir Rahman, one woman’s attorney, said that Yale should implement procedures to create an atmosphere where people complain without fear of retaliation and monitor situations that let those in power take advantage of their subordinates.
“We have clients of all different levels, we have a resident, we have a fellow, we have attending physicians,” Rahman said. “And so I think there weren’t systems in place to prevent people taking advantage of those dynamics.”
Karen Peart, a spokeswoman for Yale, said school officials took the necessary measures last summer when three plaintiffs came forward. She said they were provided with resources under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination at schools recieving federal funding.
“Yale takes charges of sexual harassment seriously,” Peart wrote in an emailed statement. “None of the plaintiffs chose to file a formal complaint; Yale has nonetheless been working to resolve the issues raised.