NYU Sued by Former Employee over Racism, Sexism

New York University is being sued by a medical librarian who claims she suffered frequent harassment from members of the security staff, was retaliated against for reporting it, was portrayed as delusional, and wrongfully terminated.

Dana Bryant was hired as a part-time library assistant in NYU’s Langone Medical Center in August 2016 and almost immediately began experiencing harassment from members of the security staff, according to the complaint. The harassment included unwelcome comments about her appearance and mocking her.

By October 2016 Bryant claims she began experiencing panic attacks and migraines. Her doctor told her that her ailments were stress related and that she should seek counseling. In November and December Bryant developed gastrointestinal problems due to the “stress of the hostile work environment” as well. In January 2017 Bryant began counseling.

In late January, Bryant reported the harassment to her supervisor and NYU’s branch manager. When she asked if there was another way she could enter and exit the building to avoid the security area, she was told that there was but that “she shouldn’t have to use it,” the complaint states.

Bryant claims she met with a representative of human resources on February 8, 2017 and reported that the harassment had increased in frequency and was concerned that some of the security guards might have learned of her complaint. She also asked if she could be transferred to another NYU location. She was told her request would be looked into but nothing came of it.

Bryant claims she submitted  a doctor’s note describing her mental health treatment and the reasons for her absences from work. On February 15, 2017 Bryant was given a “Performance Management and Corrective Action booklet” to address her alleged excessive absences. Bryant claims her doctor’s note was disregarded.

Bryant also filed a complaint with NYU’s internal audit compliance and risk management department in mid February. She claims she was immediately retaliated against by being placed on mandatory unpaid sick leave and told she could not return to work unless she met with a therapist assigned by NYU and that therapist approved her return to work.

Bryant met with NYU’s therapist and told her about some of the incidents of harassment as well as her other ailments. The NYU therapist called Bryant’s own therapist to discuss her situation. When asked if Bryant was delusional, Bryant’s therapist said that she “suffered from depression and anxiety and did not suffer from hallucinations.” He also said Bryant’s condition would improve if she was moved away from her harassers. Both therapists agreed that Bryant was capable of returning to work.

Bryant claims NYU “tried to falsely portray [her] as delusional in retaliation for her discrimination complaints and to further discriminating against her because she suffers from anxiety, depression, and [other conditions].”

NYU continued to require Bryant to see its approved psychiatrist. Bryant balked at this claiming that NYU refused to allow her to return to work, consider her request for a transfer, or investigate her harassment complaints. She preferred to and did consult her own psychiatrist who concluded she was not “delusional.”

On April 11, 2017 Bryant received a letter from NYU terminating her employment because she would not comply with their directive, i.e., see their approved psychiatrist.

Bryant is represented by Erica Shnayder of New York city who filed the case in the Southern District of New York.

Image Source: Joe Shlabotnik (Flickr)