Suit Accuses Duke, UNC Of Antitrust Violation


While UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University might be in fierce competition, medical school administrators have declared a truce — but one faculty member has called foul.

Dr. Danielle Seaman, assistant professor at Duke School of Medicine, filed a class-action lawsuit this summer against Duke, Duke University Health System and Dr. William Roper, dean of UNC School of Medicine, for violating antitrust laws.

UNC, UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health are included in the complaint as “unnamed co-conspirators,” meaning they are not yet named as defendants in the case. But because of the legal placeholder, additional defendants could be added as the case progresses.

The policy in question in the alleged violation is a no-hire agreement between the deans of Duke and UNC’s medical schools meant to prevent faculty poaching. According to her complaint, Seaman was denied a teaching position at UNC School of Medicine, despite her qualifications.

The suit accuses the medical schools of suppressing healthy competition — curbing wages and damaging the professional outlook of skilled individuals.

“All workers have the right to be paid according to a competitive marketplace for their talent, and that includes faculty members and other skilled medical professionals,” said Dean Harvey, an attorney with Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein LLP, the firm handling Seaman’s case.

The lawsuit — originally filed June 9 and amended Aug. 12 to include Roper — is in the first stage of litigation. If the court decides Seaman’s claim has sufficient factual basis, she could subpoena relevant information from the universities.

More here.

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2 Responses to Suit Accuses Duke, UNC Of Antitrust Violation

  1. Daniel Kelly September 22, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    Suit accuses Duke, UNC of antitrust violation
    This legal case sounds quite like an interesting set of legal sparring between the academics and administrative organizations in schools. Interestingly, and perhaps typically, the accused is a School administration using its power to stifle the educative growth of its students and the personal wealth of teachers. Using their power as administrators to limit their ability to hunt for quality jobs and actually compete, which would both increase the output of these professors and their quality as they hunt for better jobs. America as a whole is currently grappling with the debate over how to treat educators and one can reason that the Universities should be a forerunner in their class on the issue. Yet these two Universities seem incapable the principals of the law and what is, in fact, illegal for them to do. Though it is opinion, I find that if schools allowed a small amount of competition that they would improve the education system. This is not to suggest that all jobs in the field should be held only until the next slightly better model of teacher comes along. However, I am suggesting that professors in a University should be able to choose to move to another college which offers somewhat better benefits for them, which would force the Universities to compete for better professors. Of course, a free and open teacher market would have it’s drawbacks as lower income universities feed into further stratification as they cannot get any top of the field professors. Policy decisions on the matter would have a significant effect and not just on professors lives but their students and perhaps even society as a whole. The open market would allow for scrupulous University presidents to poach their opponents and reap the rewards of their generous donations, however the actual outcome would most likely be more modest. Simply put the Universities are accused of committing a crime and if found guilty then little would likely change for I do not see some form of necessarily deep vein of injustice being committed nor do I foresee the outcome as drastically changing the University system. It is interesting, however, to ponder what would happen if professors competed as often as with as much challenge to their livelihood as factory workers. What is awful and perhaps this case is a symptom of the problem is when universities hire adjunct professors for little pay and no benefits. It would appear that the professor in the case has “made it” academically and has the respect necessary to be deserving of a competitive position. But for many in academics there are few open positions to start and even fewer that pay a reasonable salary for their work. Even Seton Hall has been guilty of this, hiring adjunct professors and paying so little as to force them to find a second job. One in particular, who shall remain unnamed, was a very talented teacher and unmatched in the field of language studies from my perspective, yet was forced to take a better position in at a company instead of with the University.
    While the treatment of this professor is interesting from a legal perspective and sets a good precedent by taking on the administration of Universities, the real crime being committed is the not so illegal practice of hiring desperate professors for less pay than they need to survive and thrive reasonably.

    Bakker, Marisa. “Suit Accuses Duke, UNC of Antitrust Violation.” The Daily Tar Heel ::. N.p., 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

    Hoff, James. “Are Adjunct Professors the Fast-food Workers of the Academic World?” The Guardian. The Guardian, 24 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

  2. Ryan Skolnick September 25, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Marisa Bakker’s article on the antitrust case against UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University has the potential to set precedent for all universities and colleges going forward. Dr. Danielle Seaman’s lawsuit against the two schools is simple: UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University are in a very competitive marketplace for faculty teachers, and they have signed a deal that limits the competitive nature of the marketplace (Bakker). Not only does the deal limit competition, but it also allows for the two universities to control wages by offering less options. The deal in question is brought up within an email between Seaman and a UNC department head: “‘lateral moves of faculty between Duke and UNC are not permitted,” which is a clear violation of antitrust laws (Bakker). While the burden of proof is on Seaman, she does not need to prove that a written document exists— simply prove that there was a verbal contract between the two Deans. What is interesting is that it appears this “anti-poaching” agreement— if it truly exists— seems to only apply to the Universities’ hospitals; other teachers have moved from Duke to UNC, and vice versa. And, as Daniel Crane mentions, even if these other teachers ran into a similar issue, it is doubtful that they would come forward given the legal ramifications (Bakker). The ramifications of the outcome of this lawsuit are gigantic: if Seaman can manage to connect a verbal contract to both UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University, then similar cases will have a huge precedent to go on. Personally, I can see this suit spilling over into sports: what if a college or university were to make an agreement with a fellow university to not poach coaches? If this were the case— and if Seaman wins— then a coach would have a large precedent to demand even more money then the gigantic salary already granted to him or her. The way that UNC and Duke defend this claim in court will be interesting— as we learned in class, the first thing you do is claim that there is no jurisdiction. However, in this case I do not think that claim would have much merit. Quite frankly, I believe that the best defense for this case is the simple fact that there is no proof that the Dean of UNC and the Dean of Duke had anything resembling a verbal contract between the two. Similarly, even if they did indeed have an agreement, without legal ramifications for breaking such a deal there are too many reasons why either side would go back on their promise: simply enough because the competition is, by Seaman’s own admission, that fierce. Without the trust that one would not break the deal, the deal’s composition falls apart, and without legal ramifications, there should not be any trust between the two Deans. I feel as though the evidence against the Deans is simply not put together at this stage enough to cause a judge or a jury that they were involved in an antitrust conspiracy.

    Bakker, Marisa. “Suit Accuses Duke, UNC of Antitrust Violation.” The Daily Tar Heel. The Daily Tar Heel, 25 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

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