The University of California, San Francisco, has agreed to pay a former postdoc $150,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit involving a prominent tobacco researcher on its faculty.
In the settlement, dated last month, Stanton Glantz, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, and UCSF “deny and dispute” the allegations by the former postdoc, Dr. Eunice Neeley, who now is a resident in family medicine at Emory University in Atlanta.
In a lawsuit filed last December, Neeley claimed that Glantz, who was her supervisor, sexually harassed her — making lurid remarks, ogling her breasts repeatedly, and forcing her to hug him on several occasions — beginning during her interview for a job in 2015. She also claimed that he refused to include her name on a research paper.
Glantz agreed in the settlement to transfer ownership over the paper, and control over where it is published, to Neeley. And the university agreed to hold a two-hour training on sexual harassment and sensitivity for all employees and managers of Glantz’s tobacco research center.
Glantz continues to deny the allegations, and places the blame for the dispute over the paper on the fact that Neeley submitted it twice without his approval, while listing him as an author. He indicated in a statement posted on his website that he was willing to keep fighting the case with Neeley — but that the financial toll was too great. “The decision to settle this case was made by the [University of California] Regents, with my concurrence, that settling the case was preferable to the continuing costs of years of litigation.”
Within days of the settlement, the university notified Neeley that it was considering taking action of its own. An internal UCSF investigation had concluded in December that Glantz’s conduct “comprised hostile work environment sexual harassment,” though it did not find evidence to support a number of Neeley’s allegations, according to a report obtained by STAT and Retraction Watch. A second complainant’s name was redacted from the report, which recommended that the university “take remedial action.”
UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood subsequently accepted the conclusions of a faculty committee “that there is probable cause that Dr. Glantz’ conduct violated the Faculty Code of Conduct,” according to a Sept. 14 letter, also provided to STAT and Retraction Watch. That letter, signed by Brian K. Alldredge, UCSF’s vice provost for academic affairs, and sent to Neeley, says that UCSF had notified Glantz that, as discipline, it proposed he undergo training on sexual harassment and proper workplace conduct. In addition, the school proposed that it put a letter of censure in Glantz’s personnel file that would remain for five years.
Glantz, Alldredge wrote, could have the letter of censure removed more quickly if, at his own expense, he completes at least six sessions of anti-harassment training provided by an outside vendor and “there are no further reports of inappropriate behavior in violation of University policies” during a one-year period.
Glantz was given 15 business days to accept or decline the chancellor’s proposed discipline; if he declined, the matter would be referred to the school’s Academic Senate, or he could attempt to negotiate a resolution with the university.
Asked whether he had agreed to the chancellor’s terms, Glantz said university policy prevented him from commenting further. UCSF said it could not comment because “the disciplinary process is not yet complete.”
Last December, a day after BuzzFeed News reported on Neeley’s suit, Glantz posted a response in which he denied “every claim reported to be included in this lawsuit.” As for the authorship dispute, he cited a June 21, 2017, letter to the journal in which UCSF officials stated that “the reason that Dr. Glantz did not include Dr. Neeley as an author when he initially submitted the manuscript on May 26, 2017 was that, despite repeated requests, Dr. Neeley had refused to grant Dr. Glantz permission to include her as an author on the paper.”
The June 21 letter came a week after two UCSF officials sent Neeley an email demanding that she “cease submitting this manuscript to any journal or any other venue for publication” because she had twice submitted it without Glantz’s approval.
According to Glantz, he and Neeley each submitted their own versions of the paper — on a project called the total exposure study, or TES — to the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Glantz’s version did not include Neeley, while hers omitted a postdoc who had worked on the project.
Glantz wrote that the journal rejected both articles because of the authorship issues. Glantz then tried again to get their work published, this time in the journal Tobacco Control. The journal rejected the manuscript.
On Nov. 9, 2017, Neeley’s attorneys wrote a letter to the American Association for Cancer Research, which publishes Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, saying that they were planning to sue Glantz and UCSF, and asking that the journal “confirm you will not publish Dr. Neeley’s paper without her being named as the primary author or we will proceed accordingly.” Attorneys for the AACR responded four days later to say that the paper was not being published in any of the association’s journals.
In a statement posted on his UCSF website last month, Glantz said he decided to cede the ground to Neeley as part of the settlement. “My reason for doing so is that … I had already decided to abandon efforts to publish the TES manuscript due to the issues raised by Tobacco Control’s peer reviewers,” he wrote.
Neither Neeley nor her attorney, Kelly Armstrong, responded to requests for comment.
Born in 1946, Glantz has been dubbed the “Ralph Nader of the anti-tobacco movement.” A major figure in the field for decades, he has conducted research on the adverse health effects of smoking as well as public policy surrounding tobacco. In 1994, Glantz gave UCSF, which he joined in 1975, his collection of tobacco-related papers — including more than 4,000 pages of internal documents from the Brown & Williamson tobacco company — helping build the institution’s Tobacco Control Archives.
His work helped lay the foundation for the 1998 “master settlement agreement” between 46 U.S. attorneys general, five other jurisdictions, and the country’s largest tobacco companies — a deal worth nearly $250 billion over 25 years — but Glantz opposed the pact on the ground that it allowed the firms to stay in business and sell their products in the developing world.
Glantz, who has been awarded tens of millions of dollars in grants for his work — including most recently a five-year, $20 million award from the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration — still faces a sexual harassment suit filed by research associate Juliette Jackson. Jackson alleges that Glantz leered at her breasts, and that she was “treated differently than other employees because of her race,” the San Francisco Examiner reported. Glantz denies those claims.
This story is a collaboration between STAT and Retraction Watch.