Sex harassment lawsuit against Yale, doctor, is settled

Jul 15, 2021, 9:16 AM | Updated: 3:16 pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A settlement has been reached in a wide-ranging sexual harassment lawsuit filed by six women who were doctors at Yale University last year when they accused a male physician at the Ivy League school of repeated incidents of forced and unwanted kissing, groping and retaliation.

Details of the agreement ending the lawsuit against Dr. Manuel Lopes Fontes, Yale and Yale New Haven Hospital were not disclosed. U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven revealed there was a settlement in a court document filed June 30.

Fontes, a now-former anesthesiologist and professor at Yale, and lawyers for the school denied the lawsuit’s allegations. In a court document filed in April, Fontes said he was removed from his positions at Yale because of the allegations.

“This lawsuit and Plaintiffs’ allegations against me have caused severe and irreparable damage to my reputation, career, health and wellness,” Fontes said in the document.

A message seeking comment was sent Thursday to an email address listed for Fontes. A Yale spokesperson declined to comment on the settlement.

A lawyer for the six women, Tanvir Rahman, also declined to comment.

“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 lawsuit said.

Several of the female doctors alleged Fontes grabbed them and kissed them against their will on several occasions in 2019, as well as repeatedly touched them without their consent, mostly during social events.

They also alleged Fontes groped an intoxicated female resident at a party and made inappropriate contact with her body with his private parts.

They also claimed Fontes would make inappropriate comments about their bodies and retaliate against them for standing up to his behavior, including making false claims to superiors about their job performance being poor.

The Associated Press does not typically name potential victims of sexual abuse unless they have given permission or spoken publicly.

The lawsuit accused officials at Yale and Yale New Haven Hospital of refusing to discipline Fontes despite their complaints. They alleged Yale has a history of not acting on sexual harassment complaints against male doctors.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers also have said Yale officials, despite knowing of the complaints against Fontes, promoted him to lead the Anesthesiology Department’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

The lawsuit further alleged Yale hired Fontes in 2015 after he had left both Cornell and Duke universities amid allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment.

In a statement last year, Yale spokesperson Karen Peart said school officials took appropriate action in 2019 when three of the plaintiffs came forward. She said they were offered resources under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination at schools receiving federal funding, as well as guidance on how to file a complaint with the university.

A former lawyer for Fontes, Robert Mitchell, denied all the allegations in a statement he provided to The Associated Press last year.

“Dr. Fontes has been vilified without a fair opportunity to defend himself against what has been a vindictive backroom campaign of scandalous and vicious falsehood, rumor, and innuendo,” Mitchell said. “Dr. Fontes will respond and the truth will shame them as well as those who have prejudged him without affording him even a hint of due process.”

Fontes has not been criminally charged. Asked whether there have been criminal investigations, Yale — which has its own police force — declined to comment and a New Haven police spokesman had no immediate comment.

Fontes, in the court document filed in April, said he had not worked since December 2019 because of a degenerative lumbar disc disease in his back. He said he became disabled after a fourth back surgery in March 2020 and was on long-term disability status.

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Sex harassment lawsuit against Yale, doctor, is settled