A former professor at the University of South Florida (USF) Health’s College of Nursing is suing USF’s Board of Trustees after he said he was forced to resign in the face of discrimination.
Andrew Bugajski is suing the school for more than $100,000 in damages, according to documents filed in Hillsborough County Court. The Ph.D. nurse said he lost wages, and suffered damage to his professional and personal reputations, along with experiencing mental anguish because of the treatment he received during nearly three years with the university.
According to the suit, Bugajski was on track to be a tenured professor, but said he resigned because of discrimination and harassment he faced at the hands of Usha Menon, Dean and Senior Associate Vice President for USF Health.
“Shortly after being hired, Plaintiff (Bugajski) immediately recognized his supervisor Vice Dean Usha Menon exhibiting hostility towards Caucasian men,” wrote Christiane L. Nolton, Bugajski’s lawyer. “Indeed, Plaintiff witnessed this disconcerting behavior which also occurred in front of other employees on multiple occasions. Specifically, Vice Dean Menon told Plaintiff and others that USF’s upper administrators were ‘a bunch of f***ing white male conservatives.'”
Bugajski, 29, a white man, began working with USF health in July of 2018 as an assistant professor, the suit said. Menon, 56, was born in India. She was hired as Vice Dean in September of 2018 and promoted to interim Dean in February 2020, then elevated to Dean that November.
Both Menon and Bugajski are registered nurses and hold Ph.D.s in nursing. They also collaborated on research projects together. They co-authored an article called “Screening of High-Risk Patients for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Primary Care: A Narrative Review” and worked on a grant called “The USF Rapid-Risk Assessment and Intervention for COVID-19.” Menon was the principal investigator for the grant.
According to the suit, Menon frequently praised Bugajski for his “noteworthy achievements” and he received positive employee evaluations. But Bugajski said Menon “openly held a deeply rooted disdain for Caucasian men” and he picked up on it almost immediately. In addition to comments about upper administration, Bugajski said Menon would make comments toward him like, “you’re a man, you don’t understand,” or “no offense, you’re a White man and you don’t get to weigh in on this,” and “you’re a man, you wouldn’t understand.”
He also claimed he was treated differently than female colleagues. He said Menon questioned his ability to handle his workload when he told her he was expecting a child. And Bugajski accused Menon of planning to push out or fire the director of business and administrative services, another white man, whom she described as “creepy,” “stupid” and “incompetent” according to the suit.
Bugajski resigned as an assistant professor in May 2021.
A representative for USF could not be reached for comment.