Tonya Battle, a 24 year employee and currently a nurse at Hurley recently filed this Complaint against the hospital for an incident that originally happened in October 2012. allegedly, a man with what appeared to be a swastika tattoo on his wrist told the nurse that he wanted to see her supervisor after she asked him to show his identity band when he went to pick up a baby in the newborn unit (hospital protocol to avoid the possibility of baby abductions). He abruptly asked to speak to her supervisor and subsequently requested that no black nurses be allowed to take care of his baby. The nurse manager (also named as a defendant in the suit) allegedly agreed with this request and a sign was allegedly posted advising all black nurses not to care for the baby.
After complaints were made to HR, the administration stated that this was not an acceptable practice. However, the black nurses were allegedly scheduled in such a way that they were still not provided access to the baby. Ms. Battle allegedly made several internal complaints about what was happening but received no response relative to resolution to her concerns. She therefore filed a charge with the EEOC and later in the county court.
This is an unfortunate scenario that should have been resolved well before a lawsuit was filed. It seems the company initially took the appropriate steps by indicating that this was not an acceptable practice. I am not sure if they went directly to the "customer" and told him this was unacceptable or not but they should have. He has every right to take is baby to a different hospital if he does not like the fact that black nurses at Hurley may interact with his baby while in the scope and course of their job duties.
Also, if it is true that the supervising nurses continued to schedule the black nurses in such a way that was compliant with the racially insensitive request, the scheduling nurse should have been disciplined -at minimum suspended and perhaps even terminated - for disobeying the directive of the administration. This swift response would surely have provided an outstanding affirmative defense for the employer and likely absolved it of liability. While it would not absolve the manager also named in the suit, Mary Osika, the plaintiff likely would not be as interested in suing just her because she probably does not have the "deep pockets" necessary to make such a suit lucrative and thus worth pursuing.
This is a scenario where the employer could and should have brought the team together for not just additional training but also a mediation session between the affected parties. Mary Osika should have been required to issue an apology to the offended nurses, assuming she was allowed to keep her job. Of course this all assumes the allegations as asserted in the complaint are true. In my assessment I, like the court initially will do, am viewing the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. When discovery starts and more evidence surfaces, I am certain new light will shine on this event and the case which currently appears very favorable to the plaintiff might not shine quite so brightly. Of course, my reference to the case is relative to the discrimination and retaliation elements of the complaint, not the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. As egregious as this scenario might be, I highly doubt it rises to the conscious-shocking level necessary to provide Ms. Battle relief for her alleged emotional distress.
Also to be tested is whether the discrimination is severe and pervasive enough to be actionable. We shall see, stay tuned!