A Cuyahoga County jury has awarded more than $28 million to renowned ear, nose and throat physician, Robert Katz, 77, who initiated a discrimination case after the Cleveland Clinic Foundation allegedly pushed him out due to his advanced age. Katz graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1963 and spent nearly two decades of his half-a-century long career at the Cleveland Clinic. Then, in 2015, he claimed the new chairman of the Head and Neck Institute began to pressure him into retiring because he was said to be “no longer a fit” for the hospital.
According to Katz, the hospital gradually began taking away his patients, leading them to younger doctors, and when he ultimately complained to his both his supervisor and the human resources department, the hospital decided not to reappoint. He left his position.
Katz is still practicing, however. After he was pushed out, he went on to work for a practice in Lake County and at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. So, he is certainly not retired.
Jurors in Common Pleas Court under the direction of Judge Robert McClelland, a Republican, awarded Katz, $1.95 million in economic compensatory damages, $325,000 in emotional distress damages and $26.375 million in punitive damages in his discrimination case. The judge hoped this would send a clear message to the clinic after the court found the hospital indeed violated laws against age discrimination and retaliation.
McClelland then had to significantly reduce the amount paid out because Ohio law sets damages at twice the amount of compensatory damages. The plaintiff’s total adjusted award was $6.8 million plus attorneys’ fees, as well as punitive damages. Katz’s attorneys were still happy.
“Dr. Katz deserved to be treated with the regard and respect that his years of service demanded. His patients deserved better too,” Chris Thorman, attorney with the Thorman Petrov Group, said. “We hope that [the Cleveland Clinic Foundation] understands from the verdict that its behavior is intolerable.”
The Cleveland Clinic is far from a fly-by-night facility. A multispecialty academic hospital based in Ohio, the clinic is owned and operated by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, an Ohio nonprofit corporation established in 1921, which Katz filed his lawsuit against.
The clinic also operates affiliated buildings in in Florida and Nevada, in Canada, and overseas in the United Arab Emirates. It is internationally recognized as one of the top medical centers in the U.S. and rated the second-best hospital by U.S. News & World Report, with its ear, nose and throat specialty coming in spot sixteen nationwide.
The organization has 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision. In a statement following the verdict, a hospital spokesperson said, “Cleveland Clinic does not tolerate discrimination or retaliation. We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict and will review the case to determine our next steps.”
The federally-imposed Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as referenced in Katz’ discrimination case, prohibits discrimination against people who are 40 years of age or older. The law forbids discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and benefits, to name a few.