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Investigation Backs Discrimination Claims In UCSF Psychiatry Department

November 5, 1993

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The University of California at San Francisco’s psychiatry department discriminates against female faculty, a federal agency ruled Thursday.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that women with equal or better qualifications were hired into lower status and lower paid positions with fewer advancement opportunities.

The ruling came in the case of Dr. Lynn Ponton, whose position as director of adolescent inpatient psychiatry was eliminated in 1989. Then she was passed over for a similar position when the department hired a man.

An attorney for the university, Marcia Canning, denied the allegations and disagreed with the EEOC’s findings.

″We don’t believe that the facts or history in the department of psychiatry warrant a finding of either specific discrimination regarding Dr. Ponton or class discrimination,″ she said.

Ponton said the report will send a strong message to other universities that they can’t discriminate.

″I think medical schools are in the dark ages with respect to how they treat women faculty,″ she said. ″This finding offers the opportunity to change the situation for women at UCSF and other medical schools.″

Ponton’s battle dates to 1981. After working as a research assistant at Paris’ prestigious Pasteur Institute, UCSF hired her at the lowest rank of adjunct professor, a temporary position.

In 1986, she was named director of adolescent inpatient psychiatry at UCSF’s Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. But in 1989, the unit and her job were eliminated for lack of funding.

Shortly afterward, an appointment committee hired a man to head the child psychiatry institute. It later selected him over Ponton to head a newly combined child and adolescent unit.

The courts have sided with Ponton from the beginning. An independent arbitrator recommended two years ago that she be given another temporary position, but the university did not follow the advice. Last year, the Alameda County Superior Court awarded Ponton back pay through 1992 and attorney’s fees of $250,000.

Ponton and the university’s lawyers must now settle the question of compensation. Ponton wants her position back and additional salary compensation of $150,000. The law allows her up to $300,000 for emotional distress, although she would not disclose what amount she is demanding.

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