Keck reaches agreement with HHS to settle Title IX complaints

The agreement includes a new policy around sensitive health exams that the parties hope will serve as a model for other institutions. (Daily Trojan file photo)

Keck Hospital of USC and the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights reached a voluntary resolution agreement Wednesday addressing a compliance review initiated by the OCR regarding the hospital’s policies and procedures for response to sex discrimination and harassment complaints. 

The review began in 2019 and served to assess the hospital’s compliance with Title IX in handling such complaints. Title IX prohibits any sex-based discrimination in schools or any academic programs that receive financial assistance from the federal government. The resolution agreement comes as a result of multiple sexual assault and harrassment accusations and sex discrimination complaints the University has faced in recent years.

Recent medical scandals at the University include the misconduct of former gynecologist George Tyndall, who pleaded not guilty to 35 felonious charges, including unlawful penetration and sexual battery, after being dismissed from practicing at the Engemann Student Health Center in 2016, and former men’s health doctor Dennis Kelly, whose alleged sexual misconduct toward many of his patients, most of whom are gay and bisexual men, was the subject of a lawsuit brought by 80 former students against the University.

“We appreciate KMUSC’s willingness to work with OCR to ensure voluntary compliance with its federal civil rights obligations under Title IX,” said OCR director Lisa J. Pino. “As a result, OCR and KMUSC reached this agreement, reflecting KMUSC’s commitment to promoting safe and equitable patient care and a healthcare environment that is free of unlawful discrimination, pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally assisted education programs or activities.”

The agreement includes a new policy around sensitive health exams that the parties hope will serve as a model for other institutions, the University said in a statement to the Daily Trojan Thursday. The new sensitive exam policy “requires authorized members of the health care team to be present at sensitive medical exams and allows patients to request chaperones according to gender,” the University said. During the exams, patients will be provided privacy to undress and dress and be given appropriate gowns and sensitive draping to ensure their physical privacy.

Keck also agreed to conduct staff training, provide annual reports during the agreement’s two-year term and continue to maintain positions of Title IX Coordinator and Deputy EEO-Title IX Coordinator for Healthcare. The responsibility of these positions is to help coordinate and ensure the actions from USC align with Title IX.

Keck Medicine of USC will also continue to maintain the Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation — a University policy meant to create a safe environment by preventing any discrimination, harassment or retaliation; the Resolution Process for Sexual Misconduct — which maintains that the University intends to give an equitable and timely response to all reports they receive and complaints regarding Title IX Sexual Harassment, California Education Code Sexual Harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct; and the Resolution Process for Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation — which stipulates that the University is dedicated to providing a fair and prompt response to all reports they receive and complaints regarding discrimination, harassment and retaliation.