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Judge permits harassment claim against University of Maryland to proceed

A researcher’s claim of sexual harassment and retaliation by her University of Maryland supervisor will proceed toward trial against the school after a federal judge this week rejected the university’s argument that the alleged victim worked not for its medical school but for the foundation through which she was hired.

In her lawsuit, Carly Goldstein alleges university personnel showed “deliberate indifference” to her reports of harassment and retaliation by a surgeon and professor at the medical school who was her supervisor.

The university has denied the allegation of indifference and argued, as part of its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, that Goldstein’s recourse was to the Baltimore Research and Education Foundation (BREF), which placed her, and not to the school.

But U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake held that Goldstein worked under the managerial control of the school – not BREF – when the alleged harassment and retaliation occurred. The university, not BREF, set Goldstein’s pay rate, determined her status as a full-time employee, and told her to recruit and train a researcher at the university, Blake added in a written decision Tuesday.

Goldstein’s attorney hailed Blake’s ruling permitting the claim against the university to go forward.

“We’re pleased with the decision, which shows that the court recognized that Ms. Goldstein has alleged facts sufficient to allow her to proceed with her case as to both sexual harassment and retaliation under both Title VII and Title IX,” said Leizer Z. Goldsmith, of The Goldsmith Law Firm in Washington.

The university declined to comment on the case.

According to court papers, Goldstein’s direct application for a University of Maryland research job was rejected, prompting her to apply successfully for the post through the school’s account with the foundation.

Goldstein alleges that harassment by her supervisor occurred from 2014 to 2016 and included lewd text messages and unwelcome touching followed by retaliatory acts after she rejected his advances.

In one text message, the supervisor stated he was going to kidnap, adopt, marry, clone and eat her, Goldstein claims. She also alleges he touched her leg and thigh and kissed her against her will.

The supervisor retaliated by failing to order medical scans and blood test results that Goldstein said she needed for her research, Goldstein alleges.

Goldstein claims that she complained to several university supervisors before filing an official complaint with the school’s human resources office.

After conducting an investigation, the university said it concluded that the supervisor had not sexually harassed Goldstein but that the two had engaged in a personal relationship that extended beyond the workplace, according to Goldstein’s complaint.

Goldstein, who said she quit her job in April 2017, sued the university in August 2018 in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Blake’s rejection of the university’s dismissal motion enables Goldstein and the school to engage in pretrial discovery, after which the parties can move for summary judgment, Blake stated.

At that point, the school may pursue its argument that it exercised reasonable care in responding to Goldstein’s allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation, the judge said.

The case is docketed at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore as Carly Goldstein v. University of Maryland et al., Civil Action No. CCB-18-2376.

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