A UCSF employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit Friday against her former supervisor and the UC Board of Regents.
The complaint alleged that Shazia Malik, a female employed at the UCSF Women’s Health Center as a senior licensed vocational nurse, faced sexual harassment and religious discrimination from Amy Rosenhaus, who formerly supervised her at the UCSF Medical Center.
Malik began her employment at the UCSF Medical Center about December 2014. When Malik was hired, Rosenhaus was the administrative director for Women’s Health.
“Commencing almost immediately after her hiring, MALIK has been subjected to a sexually-charged hostile workplace instigated and maintained by Defendants,” the complaint alleged. “MALIK was shocked and distraught by ROSENHAUS’s behavior and has sought and continues to seek treatment for the severe emotional and psychological harm she has suffered from ROSENHAUS’s conduct.”
Dow Patten, Malik’s attorney, said his client tried to resolve the matter informally with the university but felt forced to take the matter to court because UCSF and the UC regents allegedly did not intervene to reprimand Rosenhaus.
Rosenhaus could not be reached for comment as of press time. UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem declined to comment, referring The Daily Californian to the UCSF public affairs team. But UCSF also declined to comment, stating that “UCSF does not comment on pending litigation.”
Rosenhaus allegedly made unwelcome and inappropriate advances on Malik on several occasions, including leering at Malik “for long periods of time,” according to the complaint. She allegedly rubbed Malik’s mid and upper back area, as well as rubbed her body against Malik’s backside.
The complaint alleged that Rosenhaus flirtatiously touched and commented on Malik’s hair, telling her that “her hair smelled good.” Rosenhaus also allegedly told Malik that she “looked hot” with her glasses on and that she was sexually attracted to women.
“On more than one occasion, ROSENHAUS sat very closely to MALIK’s chair while straddling the chair in between ROSENHAUS’s spread legs and placing her arm around the back of MALIK’s chair. When MALIK asked for some space, ROSENHAUS laughed and moved in closer,” the complaint alleged.
In addition to the alleged sexual advances, the complaint alleged that Rosenhaus made discriminatory comments about her religion. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when Malik wore a hijab, Rosenhaus allegedly gave her a “disgusted look” and exclaimed, “What is that?!” The complaint also alleged that Rosenhaus asked Malik if she knew anyone in the terrorist organization ISIS.
“There were comments made by the same (person), not just about her body and her sexiness, but about her religion and her race,” Patten alleged. “To me, that makes it twice as bad. It’s like you’re going to harass me, and you’re going to do it also cutting down my religion and cutting down my national origin.”
The UC system has faced controversy recently surrounding its handling of sexual misconduct on its campuses. Documents obtained by The Daily Californian revealed that there were 124 cases of UC staff and employees violating the university’s sexual violence and harassment policy between 2013-16. Last spring, a UC Berkeley alumna filed a suit against UC Berkeley professor emeritus of philosophy John Searle, alleging that he sexually assaulted her. More recently, a UC Berkeley student filed a lawsuit against the regents and a Tang Center employee that alleged sexual harassment.
Patten said Malik’s case showed not only that there are a broad number of sexual misconduct cases across the UC system but also that sexual harassment can take many forms.
“I think what’s most important here is that this is not limited to male-on-female sexual harassment — that same-sex sexual harassment is prevalent. It occurs a lot, and a lot of people don’t feel like they can report it,” Patten said. “This stuff (is) happening all at the same time and … guess what? It happens in same-sex relationships as well in the workplace.”
According to the complaint, about January 2016, Malik attempted to distance herself from Rosenhaus because she was “exasperated by the ongoing harassing conduct.” The complaint alleged, however, that after that, Rosenhaus engaged in a series of retaliatory acts toward Malik, including unjustly criticizing her work and giving her a negative reference for another position.
About Feb. 5, 2016, Malik complained about Rosenhaus’ unwelcome behavior and retaliation by filing a formal complaint with the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, or OPHD. She also took a medical leave of absence because of the stress caused by Rosenhaus’ actions. Malik later returned to work in April 2016.
Since Malik’s February 2016 complaint, however, other employees at UCSF Women’s Health Center have made complaints alleging that Rosenhaus has created a hostile work environment because of her unlawful behavior and retaliation.
Malik escalated her complaint about Rosenhaus to UC President Janet Napolitano about April 12, 2016. OPHD investigated her complaint and issued a report Sept. 23, 2016 that Malik’s complaint was well-founded.
The following month, however, 13 staff and physicians in the Women’s Health department, including Malik, submitted a letter or petition outlining the harassment and retaliation they had been subjected to after participating in the investigation regarding Malik’s harassment, according to the complaint. A few days later, Human Resources requested time off for Malik to her supervisors and disclosed her involvement in the retaliation complaint. Immediately after this, further unlawful retaliation continued, the complaint alleged.
The complaint alleged that when Malik contacted OPHD about her complaint July 28, 2016, she was directed to Maureen Brodie, who allegedly told her something along the lines of, “maybe you should be the one to leave.”
Patten alleged that although Rosenhaus is no longer at the Women’s Health Center, Malik has been demoted ever since she complained about Rosenhaus’ conduct.
“As of June 29, 2017 Defendant REGENTS instituted a revised sexual harassment policy in the wake of numerous mis-handled sexual harassment complaints and allegations. Despite UCOP President Napolitano’s assurances, REGENTS have ignored MALIK’s pleas for assistance and has, upon information and belief, authorized the ongoing retaliation against MALIK as set forth herein,” the complaint alleged.