After reporting “perilous conditions” at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, a psychiatrist with a sterling 20-year record has filed suit against his employer under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. He is accusing them of suspending him for having spoken up about troubling conditions under the facility’s new clinical director. Also named in his case are the state of New Jersey, the state’s Department of Health, its Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and others.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, or NJLAD, is one of the most progressive anti-discrimination laws in the country. It is widely heralded for protecting against discrimination based on a wide array of categories, including race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, marital/civil union status, religion, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, and mental or physical disability. In addition to protecting individuals against discrimination based on membership in any of these categories, the NJLAD also prohibits retaliation against a person for complaining about, reporting, or cooperating in an investigation of alleged discrimination or bias-based harassment, and that is exactly what is alleged in the claim filed by Dr. Amir Rizvi.

A resident of Princeton, New Jersey, Dr. Rizvi says he is facing retaliation after speaking up against discriminatory behavior towards a colleague, as well as about “perilous conditions” faced by patients. He attributes the staff and patient problems to the arrival of the hospital’s clinical director, Dr. Intikhab Ahmed in 2018. According to Rizvi, Ahmad’s insistence on prescribing Clozaril to many patients was linked to at least one patient’s death, and he associates another patient’s escape and subsequent death by suicide to Ahmad’s directives. In his filing, Rizvi claims that Ahamad disregarded the “dignity and autonomy of patients,” describing the use of “chemical restraints” and “repeatedly increasing medication for patients without considering alternatives, side effects, or the effectiveness of such a methodology.”

Rizvi describes an abusive response to questions about Ahmad’s leadership, and abusive behaviors characterized by frequent yelling at staff. Prior to Rizvi having been suspended there were multiple complaints filed against Ahmad, including one by a female employee who claimed she was subjected to gender discrimination. That woman was subsequently “forced out of her position” according to the lawsuit, and it was after Rizvi came forward in support of her claim that he says the retaliation and unfounded disciplinary actions against him began.

The hospital is taking action to terminate Dr. Rizvi’s employment after more than 20 years without a blemish on his personnel record. They are attributing their action to an incident that occurred almost a year earlier on what Dr. Rizvi calls a “newly concocted fictional retelling of events.” He argues that it was his “integrity and willingness to speak out about grievous conditions at the hospital” that has put his career at risk. Dr. Rizvi is seeking both economic and non-economic compensatory damages for the harms that he’s suffered, which include emotional distress, front pay, and back pay.

Sometimes discrimination occurs because you’ve stepped up and done the right thing rather than because of who you are. If you believe that you have been the victim of employment discrimination, our compassionate attorneys can help.  Contact us today to set up a time for us to talk about your situation.