A longtime UCLA School of Dentistry professor is suing the university and the UC Board of Regents, alleging colleagues stripped him of a chairmanship in retaliation for taking sick leave to care for his father and himself.
Kang “Eric” Ting is seeking unspecified damages on allegations that include retaliation, failure to prevent retaliation, employment discrimination, unlawful harassment, failure to accommodate a disability and failure to engage in the interactive process.
UCLA spokesman Ricardo Vazquez issued a statement on the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit.
“Our longstanding practice is not to comment on pending litigation,” Vazquez said.
Ting, who has worked at UCLA for 25 years, was chairman of the School of Dentistry’s orthodontics section. He took a leave of absence to care for his sick father in Taiwan in 2017, but he had to wait six months to do so after an anonymous complaint was made alleging that he and a colleague violated admissions policies, according to the court papers he filed Tuesday.
The allegations were investigated and Ting and his colleague were found to have committed no wrongdoing, but in the interim, Ting’s father was without the care he needed, the suit states.
Apparently frustrated with Ting for taking leave, his supervisors began to micromanage him, including one who questioned whether he was spending enough time in the orthodontics clinic, the suit states. Ting explained that he had to attend to his father’s illness and that he would work more in the clinic now that he was back, according to his court papers.
The alleged retaliation continued throughout 2018 and caused Ting to experience severe and persistent anxiety, leading to him having severe pain from an ulcer and gastric erosions, according to his suit.
Ting told his supervisors he would be undergoing a gastrointestinal tract procedure in March 2018 and would need 10 days to recover, but his bosses ” again made it clear to Dr. Ting that they were unhappy that he was taking any medical leave,” the suit alleges.
When Ting returned, he found himself the target of an effort by one of his supervisors to convince a dental student the plaintiff once mentored to file a false sexual harassment complaint against Ting, the suit alleges.
Instead, the former mentee filed a Title IX complaint against Ting’s supervisor, “describing his inappropriate harassment of her in connection with his efforts to pressure her to complain against Dr. Ting,” according to the suit.
Ting’s gastrointestinal problems and the medications he took for them began to “significantly impact his well-being,” so he took a six-week medical leave in August 2018, the suit states. One of his supervisors argued with Ting and said he did not need the additional leave, according to the plaintiff.
In January 2019, Ting was removed from his chairmanship and replaced with a someone with less experience who was not a member of the academic senate, the suit states.
Last July, a supervisor cut off Ting’s profit-sharing payments, telling the plaintiff he was doing so because the orthodontics section was operating at a deficit, according to the complaint.