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JINDAL v. NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH

January 25, 1990

SATYA P. JINDAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH AND NATHAN KLINE INSTITUTE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert P. Patterson, Jr., District Judge.

FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND DECISION

This is a Title VII civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., by Dr. Satya Jindal against his employers, which was tried on five days in October and November 1989. The following constitutes the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

I. FACTS

Dr. Satya Jindal, an organic chemist employed as a Research Scientist IV, grade 27, at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research (the "Institute") charges that the Institute's failure to promote him above grade 27 from 1981 to the present is the result of unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin. He seeks retroactive promotion to Research Scientist V, grade 31, which amounts to a $4,000 raise, with back pay to May, 1987. See Plaintiff's Proposed Conclusions of Law at ¶ 21.

The Nathan Kline Institute is a multi-disciplinary research organization, which is separately administered within defendant New York State Office of Mental Health ("OMH"). The Institute focuses its research in the area of mental illness, including chronic mental illness, major psychosis, dementia and depression.

Dr. Jindal is an East Asian who was born and raised in India, where he attended college. Later he attended graduate school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, earning his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1965. Thereafter, he pursued post-doctoral studies at Northwestern University and Case Western Reserve University. He also worked at the Worcester Institute for Experimental Biology and the Medical University of South Carolina before coming to the Institute in 1975. Dr. Jindal came to the Institute possessing special training in gas chromatography and mass spectrometry ("GC/MS"), a then emerging technology. GC/MS permits users to disaggregate more complex drugs into their molecular structure and identify substances at a molecular level in samples of blood, urine, or other specimens used for scientific analysis.

At the Institute Dr. Jindal, who was hired as a Research Scientist I, grade 19, worked with Dr. Per Vestergaard on specific projects which, for the most part, involved analysis of the molecules of cocaine by use of GC/MS, and then identifying the metabolites of cocaine in the urine of patients and animals. Dr. Jindal was the first scientist to develop stable isotope labels for cocaine. This work led Dr. Jindal to collaborate on eleven scientific papers with Dr. Vestergaard between 1977 and 1979. He received several promotions and by 1979 achieved the level of Research Scientist III, grade 25. These promotions, which were made by Dr. Kline, then Director of the Institute, did not require action by the Peer Review Committee. During this period Dr. Jindal collaborated with other scientists. Dr. Vestergaard regarded Dr. Jindal's work as "very excellent" and in May 1979 requested that Dr. Jindal be again promoted.*fn1

In April 1980 Dr. Vestergaard reiterated the request and soon thereafter the Peer Review Committee unanimously recommended Dr. Jindal's promotion to the next grade, grade 27, his present rank. However, Dr. Jindal did not receive that promotion immediately. All recommendations of the Peer Review Committee were subject to the approval of Dr. Kline. Dr. Kline asked the administrative assistant of the Peer Review Committee for additional information on Dr. Jindal, and his Deputy Director, Dr. Nagle, made a similar inquiry, although he had voted for the promotion as a member of the Peer Review Committee.

Since the Peer Review Committee had met in June, 1980, Dr. Jindal inquired of Dr. Kline in September 1980 as to the status of his promotion. In an October 1980 reply, Dr. Kline implied that Peer Review Committee action was still required under a new policy and that the committee would meet again in April. In March the Peer Review Committee administrative assistant asked Dr. Kline whether Dr. Jindal should be considered at the April 1981 meeting and was directed to hold the matter over until the June meeting. There is no evidence that Dr. Jindal's promotion was acted on at the June meeting of the Committee. During this period, Dr. Vestergaard made another request for Dr. Jindal's promotion and Dr. Kline finally acted in August 1981, approving Dr. Jindal's promotion to grade 27 more than two years after Dr. Vestergaard's original request.*fn2

Dr. Vestergaard left the Institute in August 1981. Dr. Kline then acted as Dr. Jindal's sole supervisor. Dr. Kline signed annual evaluations of Dr. Jindal's performance, none of which were critical of Dr. Jindal's performance. Significantly, Dr. Jindal's performance in 1982 was evaluated at "above job rate." In September 1982, Dr. Kline appointed the present Peer Review Committee for the Institute; its members were all non-minorities.

In December 1982 Dr. Kline died, and Dr. Robert Cancro, the present Director of the Institute, replaced him. In June 1983 Dr. Cancro ordered a reorganization of the Institute, placing Dr. Jindal and his assistant, Teresa Lutz, under Mr. Thomas Cooper in the newly-formed Division of Analytical Psychopharmacology. Mr. Cooper then developed "General Guidelines" for his Division, which placed restrictions on proposed collaborations and individual research projects.

Although Dr. Jindal's annual performance, as evaluated by Mr. Cooper in the following years, 1983 — 1987, remained "highly effective," and although Mr. Cooper never indicated to Dr. Jindal that there were any serious deficiencies in his performance, Mr. Cooper did not suggest Dr. Jindal to the Peer Review Committee for promotion. In fact, during those years, Mr. Cooper never considered whether or not Dr. Jindal should be promoted.

In contrast, during that period the Institute promoted several non-East Asian scientists to grades above 27. They include Maarten Reith (grade 31), Barbara Feitel (grade 31), Morris Meisner (grade 35), Micky Kohn (grade 35), Leslie Prichep (grade 31), and Mr. Saito (hired at grade 31).

In May 1987, Dr. Jindal wrote the Commissioner of OMH and complained that he had not been promoted or considered for promotion since 1981. In June, OMH replied by letter to Dr. Jindal, stating Dr. Cancro had annually reviewed the performance evaluations for Dr. Jindal as part of the Institute's peer review process. It also said that if the Division Chief, Mr. Cooper, and the director agree that an employee should be considered for peer review, nomination to the Peer Review Committee is made at that time. According to the evidence presented at trial, this demonstrates a clear misunderstanding by OMH of the process being followed at the Institute. Dr. Cancro testified that he did not routinely review the evaluations of NKI employees nor conduct annual meetings at which he and Mr. Cooper discussed the evaluations of Mr. Cooper's subordinates. Although Dr. Cancro received a copy of OMH's response, he made no attempt to correct the discrepancy. In fact, Dr. Cancro testified at trial that he had not reviewed any of Dr. Jindal's evaluations until after the filing of this lawsuit, did not routinely review evaluations of Institute employees, and did not have annual meetings with Mr. Cooper to discuss Mr. Cooper's performance evaluations.

After seeing Dr. Jindal's letter to the Commissioner of OMH, Dr. Cancro asked Mr. Cooper to review Dr. Jindal for promotion, but Mr. Cooper did not report back. Dr. Cancro did not pursue the matter, and in 1987 no peer review of Dr. Jindal resulted. This lawsuit followed.

II. ...


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