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Michigan Hospital Grants Horridly Discriminatory Patient Request: The Reality of Racial Discrimination in the Nursing Field

Imagine the shock and dismay experienced by nurse Tonya Battle when she was reassigned because of a father’s racial hatred.  Ms. Battle, a neonatal nurse at a large Michigan hospital, was told she would no longer be taking care of her tiny patient because the baby’s father had requested that no African American nurses be allowed to care for the infant. Subsequently, a note on the patient’s chart read: “No African American nurse to take care of baby.” Ms. Battle is now pursuing discrimination claims against the hospital for illegally accommodating this father’s atrocious request.

Though Ms. Battle has stated that the prejudicial note remained written on the patient’s chart and African American nurses were permanently barred from caring for the baby, the hospital adamantly denies these claims. In defense, the hospital issued a statement explaining that although the father did make the alleged request, he did so while blatantly exposing a swastika tattoo, frightening and angering staff members into non-compliance. According to hospital officials, even though the request was evaluated and considered, it was ultimately denied.

While this case may seem isolated and extreme, our firm has seen many instances involving nurses who have suffered discriminatory treatment at the hands of patients, co-workers, or employers.  Brooklyn alone is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of nurses due to the city’s rapidly growing healthcare industry.  While Brooklyn and NYC hospitals may employ a large and diverse medical staff, it is not uncommon for petty staff rivalries to develop along ethnic lines.  This distasteful behavior can quickly turn into illegal behavior when nurses are singled out for discriminatory treatment based on race or national origin, as may have been the case with Tonya Battle.  Regardless, Ms. Battle’s employer’s claim that they caved to the demands of a neo nazi due to safety concerns is a cop out; hospital staff regularly run across potentially dangerous clientele in their line of work, but never have I heard this fact used as a justification for acquiescing  to unreasonable, unsafe or, as in this case, racist demands by patients or their family.   The best safety protocol for such a situation is self-evident even to those not employed in the healthcare field; call security or the police, but don’t shame your staff by legitimizing the demands of a racist thug.

If you are a Brooklyn or New York City nurse or healthcare provider who has been a victim of illegal discrimination, contact an attorney who can aid you in asserting your fundamental human rights.

Christopher Davis is an experienced employment litigator specializing in class actions, overtime wage recovery, discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and Wall Street bonus disputes. Before entering private practice, Mr. Davis served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office where he prosecuted violent crimes as a member of the Sex Crimes Unit.