Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Michigan nurse accuses hospital of discrimination, retaliation

With 2014 coming up, it may seem hard to imagine that the family of a hospital patient would ask for only white caregivers and that the hospital would comply with the request. However, according to a discrimination suit filed in Grand Rapids by a nursing supervisor, that's what happened. The defendant in the lawsuit is Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

According to the plaintiff, the family of a white man who was at the facility asked that no African-American nurses or other caregivers attend to the man. She says that the director of nursing went along with the request. The nursing supervisor, who is African-American, said that she had to tell her nursing staff that no African-Americans were allowed to go into the patient's room, even if he needed medical or other attention.

The plaintiff's suit says that the hospital's actions are in violation of the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act as well as Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, both of which were passed to prohibit discrimination based on race. Moreover, the plaintiff contends that when she complained about the situation, she suffered discrimination and retaliation, and was passed over for promotions.

The plaintiff's attorney says that her client was hesitant about taking legal action, but she thought it was important for the issue to be addressed and hopes to be an "agent of change." The lawyer says that a medical facility is under no obligation to agree to such a request by a patient or a family. Further, by going along with the request, the hospital "validates the prejudice." She argues that it also contributes to racial divisions in the work environment.

The attorney who is representing this plaintiff filed a suit against another medical facility for the same type of alleged actions. In that case, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Flint Hurley Medical Center agreed to a parent's request not to allow an African-American nurse to treat his baby. The hospital settled the case for close to $200,000.

According to Mary Free Bed, the hospital has not yet seen the lawsuit. However, its legal team is no doubt working to determine the facts of the situation and to present its case. While it has already received negative publicity, it has not yet had a chance to present its version of events to a judge or jury.

Source: MLive.com, "Nurse behind race discrimination suit against Mary Free Bed wants to be 'agent of change,' lawyer says" Sue Thoms, Dec. 03, 2013

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