A 66-year-old former USC doctor is suing the university, alleging he was “terminated by ambush” in 2021 after nearly 30 years with the Keck School of Medicine because of both his age and a severe problem with the use of his hands.
Dr. Namir Katkhouda, described in his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit as a “world-renowned surgeon, professor, researcher and author,” also alleges retaliation and that the university failed to accommodate his needs and engage in the interactive process. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed June 9.
Katkhouda was never told he could be fired if he stayed too long on medical leave and USC never tried to provide him work that he could perform with his disability, the suit states.
“Instead, Dr. Katkhouda was terminated by ambush because of his disability and age and was unlawfully denied a good-faith interaction process and reasonable accommodations for his disability,” the suit states.
USC released a statement regarding Monday regarding the lawsuit that read, “We are aware of the lawsuit and are reviewing it in detail.”
Katkhouda was hired in 1993 as an associate professor of surgery as well as the chief of the Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery at County-USC Medical Center, achieving tenure as a professor of surgery in 2000, the suit states.
While at USC, Katkhouda was awarded multiple grants from the National Institute of Health as well as from Johnson & Johnson, the suit states. In 1997, he was bestowed knighthood in the French Legion of Honor by then-French President Jacques Chirac, the highest order for exceptional services rendered to France, the suit states. The honor was related to Katkhouda’s work in laparoscopic surgery, the suit states.
In November 2019, Katkhouda was diagnosed with a medical condition that caused retraction of the tendons in his hands, forcing him to go on medical leave, the suit states. Two months later, Dr. Kamran Samakar, who was far younger than the plaintiff and had less experience, was appointed to Katkhouda’s position as director of the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery program at Keck, the suit states.
Katkhouda kept USC up to date on his medical status while on leave and informed them that aside from performing surgeries, he was able to conduct research and teach, the suit states. He was told his statutory leave would expire on May 24, 2021, but was not told about the interactive process or that he would be fired if he did not return by then, the suit states.
Katkhouda was fired the next month by a provost who said the plaintiff was being stripped of his job because his leave exceeded a year and was not entitled to any formal termination proceedings, the suit states.
USC never told Katkhouda that he could be fired if he remained on medical leave and the university did not try and accommodate the plaintiff for his disability, the suit alleges.