Metro health director Dr. Michael Caldwell resigns amid allegations of gender discrimination

Posted at 3:29 PM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 20:03:41-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Public Health Department Director Dr. Michael Caldwell has resigned from his position amid allegations of gender discrimination.

On Thursday night, the Metro Board of Health unanimously voted to accept his resignation in a 6 to 0 vote during a meeting to address Caldwell's behavior.

His resignation is effective immediately, but he will be allowed to go into the department building on Friday to clear his office.

On Wednesday, the Metro Public Health Department told NewsChannel 5 that "Metro Human Resources conducted an investigation involving Dr. Caldwell. HR turned the report over to the Board of Health for their review."

A Metro Human Resources Department fact-finding investigation found that Caldwell "acted with an unconscious bias against women."

"Fact Finders have found that the presiding sentiment throughout the witness interviews is that women, specifically women who disagree with him or have differing opinions or ideas, are treated differently than men," the report says.

Metro Human Resources recommended Caldwell be removed from his position, however the decision about his employment contract was up to the Board of Health.

"I ask that you focus on the actual findings in the report and know that they have shaken me to my core, fundamentally, and changed my point of view," Caldwell said during Thursday night's meeting. "This is a wake-up call for me, both personally and professionally."

Both Nashville Mayor John Cooper and Board Chair Dr. Alex Jahangir addressed the allegations during Metro’s weekly COVID-19 update. Dr. Caldwell was not present for the briefing.

Dr. Jahangir said they received the complaint on Tuesday and will review it at Thursday's board meeting.

However, Mayor Cooper said he has reviewed the report, which he said, “describes behavior inappropriate for any Metro employee.”

“Everyone, regardless of sex or gender, deserves to be treated without bias in the workplace,” Cooper said.

Dr. Jahangir said when he received the report, he “took it seriously” and forwarded it on to the appropriate channels.

“There are over 700 amazing employees at the health department and as a board, and me personally, are committed to make sure those individuals have a safe and healthy environment every day when they come to work. Period,” said Jahangir.

District 16 Council Member Ginny Welsch called for Caldwell to either resign or be removed from the position.

Dr. Caldwell released the following statement:

"Tuesday afternoon I was made aware of a report from Metro HR regarding two complaints.

I am reviewing this sincerely and take the report seriously. I want to thank those who have come forward and contributed to this report. I truly appreciate them, the work they do and their contributions to our department and to the community.

I have been fully cooperative with HR and will continue working with them, the Board of Health and our employees to address the issues and concerns outlined in the report.

I have spoken to Metro HR Director Shannon Hall this morning and reinforced my strong belief in and commitment to diversity. I have focused on developing a leadership team that demonstrates my core values. I will be addressing any deficiencies of unconscious bias and am working to develop a professional and personal work plan guided by HR.

As noted in the report, 'the challenges of the last year have tested the field of Public Health in ways that no current employee of the department has ever seen. To say that the stress, uncertainty, long hours and other demands have been challenging is likely an understatement.'

I recognize and respect all employees’ respective skills and expertise. I admire each and every employee and recognize they are the reason this department is so successful.

I encourage our employees to continue to focus on the important work we are all doing to help our community get through this current public health emergency."

The health department voted to approve Caldwell as director of health back in March.