Doctor’s lawsuit charges Duke and UNC agreed not to compete in hiring physicians

justice scales and gavel
A lawsuit alleging that Duke University and the University of North Carolina had an agreement not to compete over physician hiring heads to court. (Getty/BrianAJackson)

Arguments are expected to begin tomorrow in a North Carolina courtroom as part of a federal lawsuit brought by a doctor who alleges that two prominent healthcare institutions had agreed not to compete when it came to hiring physicians.

A former Duke University radiology professor, Danielle Seaman, M.D., filed the antitrust lawsuit alleging that Duke and the University of North Carolina had an agreement not to hire each other’s professors, according to the Associated Press. That cost her a job at UNC, Seaman has charged.

Seaman’s attorneys will argue the case should be made a class action suit, a move that could affect thousands of faculty, physicians, nurses and others at the two institutions, according to the AP report.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles will hear arguments as to whether the lawsuit should include all skilled medical workers employed between 2012 and 2017 at Duke’s medical school, the Duke University Health System, the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school and the University of North Carolina Health Care System.

The judge is also considering a proposed settlement between UNC and Seaman, the AP said. Seaman has charged that she lost out on a faculty position at UNC in 2015 and was told by an administrator that the two schools had an agreement to prevent “lateral” job moves and would only recruit professors if the person changing jobs was getting a promotion by moving. Both UNC and Duke say there was no such agreement to prevent lateral moves of faculty between the two institutions.

The lawsuit contends the two institutions agreed not to compete in hiring each other’s physicians in order to suppress employee compensation and restrict mobility.

It’s not the first time a doctor has filed antitrust complaints. A veteran Mayo Clinic physician filed multiple antitrust complaints against his employer over its moves to create what he called a healthcare monopoly.