A gay surgery resident at the Brooklyn Hospital Center faced severe harassment and anti-LGBTQ discrimination from supervisors and colleagues in 2017 and 2018, according to a Brooklyn Supreme Court lawsuit he filed in September of 2018.
The doctor who filed the suit, Chad Jensen, described a disturbing workplace culture rife with homophobic comments, sexual harassment, and retaliation at the downtown Brooklyn teaching hospital at 121 DeKalb Avenue. Jensen also said doctors would routinely make homophobic remarks about patients.
In what appeared to be an early red flag, Jensen stated in his lawsuit that a fellow doctor advised him not to come out as gay to the director of the hospital’s general surgery residency program, Dr. Armand Asarian, because that colleague was aware of homophobic comments Asarian made about patients in the past. Still, Asarian later found out about Jensen’s sexual orientation and “targeted and demeaned him because he was gay,” according to the suit.
In one of Jensen’s examples, he pointed to a time when he was returning to work after nursing a case of strep throat. He said he was met with a verbal onslaught of homophobia when Dr. Sandeep Sirsi, the associate program director, along with a chief resident probed him with questions about “how his ‘gonoherpesyphilis’ was” and joked that Jensen was HIV-positive.
In November of 2017, Jensen said another chief resident threatened him physically. The suit also alleges that doctor told Jensen via a text message that “Dr. Asarian stands for the same principles I do,” which Jensen interpreted as meaning that the chief resident’s hostility toward Jensen was motivated by homophobia and was approved by the program director.
Jensen said he later received copies of threatening text messages in which that chief resident allegedly told other chief residents, “The ass to mouth crew will pay eventually. Death before dishonor.”
The bigotry continued even when Jensen sought an escape route from the discriminatory environment, according to the suit. In April of 2018 he emailed Asarian, Sirsi, and the program coordinator to inform them that he intended to resign from the program, and he subsequently told Asarian that the workplace culture made it impossible for him to work there.
That apparently set off Asarian, who allegedly responded by saying Jensen’s intention to resign was “extremely inappropriate.” Asarian then forwarded the email to the dean of the medical school that Jensen attended, the suit claims.
“In response to Asarian’s email, [the dean] called Jensen to discuss his potential resignation and proceeded to threaten his future employment, stating, ‘You know, I have a lot of contacts at Lincoln [Hospital],’ where Jensen had already been accepted into a four-year residency program,” the suit stated.
Jensen wound up leaving the program before his residency was complete, and now he is seeking redress for the treatment he alleges he suffered. He wants the hospital to hire a Lambda Legal-appointed individual to train supervisors and employees on discrimination and harassment policies as well as to be paid “compensatory damages,” among other demands. It is not clear how much money Jensen seeks in this case.
Gay City News sought comment from Jensen and his legal team. An attorney representing Jensen, John Beranbaum, told Gay City News in a written statement that Jensen “brought this lawsuit not only to assert his own rights but those of others who may be facing similar discrimination and harassment based on their sexual orientation or identity.”
Court documents show Asarian, Sirsi, and the hospital denied the allegations in November of 2018 and rejected the notion that Jensen should be entitled to “any relief whatsoever.” Neither the hospital nor an attorney representing the hospital, Asarian, and Sirsi responded to Gay City News’ requests for comment for this story.
The lawsuit is ongoing, though Beranbaum did not return follow-up questions about next steps for Jensen’s legal team.