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Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP | 20th Anniversary 2004 - 2024

UM School of Medicine Race and Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Case name: Dr. Omaida Velazquez v. University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, et al.

Case type: Gender and Race Discrimination

Filed in: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Docket: 1:23-cv-20497

Case Summary

Sanford Heisler Sharp has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Omaida Velazquez against the University of Miami (“UM”) and its Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, alleging gender, race, and national origin discrimination, unlawful retaliation, and breach of contract.

Dr. Velazquez, UM’s former Department of Surgery Chair and Surgeon-in-Chief of the University of Miami Health System, brings her claims under 42 U.S.C. section 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, Florida’s Private Whistleblower Act, and other laws.

A world-renowned leader in vascular surgery, Dr. Velazquez became the first Latin/Hispanic woman to lead a major academic department of surgery at a medical school when UM appointed her Department Chair in 2015. The Complaint alleges that, despite her stellar professional and academic performance in the ensuing years, UM launched a vengeful campaign against her after she became vocal about discrimination in her pay as well as safety violations in the University of Miami Health System.

According to the Complaint, UM responded to Dr. Velazquez’s concerns about unequal pay and her determination to report safety and health violations by high-ranking UM officials—the latter in conformity with a Corporate Integrity Agreement that UM entered with the U.S. Government—by putting her on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) that was in fact retaliation for Dr. Velazquez’s protected activities.

In 2022, after Dr. Velazquez took an FMLA-protected medical leave, the Complaint further alleges, UM stopped paying her administrative salary that she received as Department Chair/Surgeon-in-Chief, a move UM has not taken previously against male and non-Latin employees who have taken medical leave. Additionally, UM took the unprecedented step of appointing an Interim Chair of the Department of Surgery, which amounted to a pretext for her ultimate termination, according to the Complaint. On Jan. 12, 2023, only hours after Dr. Velazquez returned from leave, UM culminated its discriminatory campaign against Dr. Velazquez by terminating her from her positions as Department Chair and Surgeon-in-Chief, the Complaint alleges.

The lawsuit seeks remedies including reinstatement of Dr. Velazquez as Department Chair and Surgeon-in-Chief, back pay, front pay, compensatory damages for emotional distress and related physical harm, and punitive damages.

Attorneys Involved in the Case

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