Nurse Alleges California Racial Discrimination Led to Wrongful Termination From Hospital

A former nurse at a hospital in Pasadena has filed a California racial discrimination lawsuit against the hospital where she worked for nearly four decades, up from a housekeeper in 1984 to a registered nurse, charge nurse and later a nursing instructor. For the first 30+ years of her employment, her work experience was positive. Until late 2017, she’d never had any written reprimands. It was around this time two new supervisors were named to oversee her department. From that point on, she alleges, nurses who were black and Latina were routinely targeted for discriminatory action, with allegations coming from a small group of white nurses.Orange County employment lawyer

As the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports, the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges the hospital fired wrongfully terminated her for retaliation and intentionally inflicted emotional distress when she reported racial discrimination, which the hospital failed to prevent. Once the new supervisors started, she alleges Latina and black nurses were regularly singled out, harassed, given poor performance evaluations, stripped of advisory board roles and passed over for promotions. In fact, the very same month the supervisors took over, plaintiff was given a reprimand on the basis of a reportedly anonymous complaint by another worker, indicating misconduct. Problem was, on the date specified, plaintiff wasn’t even at work.

The following month, human resources personnel called her in for a meeting about further employee dissatisfaction. It was at that time she told HR that she was being discriminated against, pointing out a white nurse who had been the subject of another complaint months earlier had been given the chance to defend herself fairly, while she was denied that same opportunity when she asked. The very next month, she was again called to HR for another anonymous worker complaint. In the face of all this, plaintiff said she offered to go back to the registered nurse position she held previously and step down from her supervisory role. However, she was told the hospital didn’t allow employee demotions, her lawsuit states. Later that month, she was fired. 

In response, more than a dozen of her employees wrote and signed a letter to HR in protest, alleging a pattern by a few white nurses with racially discriminatory motivations for systematically making complaints about minority supervisors and coworkers. Plaintiff filed an internal grievance, asking her complaint be investigated. However, the hospital responded a few days later with a letter indicating the firing was being upheld.

Racial Discrimination in Hospitals

Nurses and doctors are believed to suffer higher rates of racial discrimination than other professions, mostly from their patients.

The Harvard Medical School published a report in 2017 noting doctors who were Muslim, black, Indian, Jewish and Latina frequently encountered racist and discriminatory attitudes from patients, some who allegedly questioned, insulted and even attacked their doctors on this basis. A number of medical journals in recent years have begun publishing guidelines for physicians with titles like, “The Discriminatory Patient and Family,” and “Dealing with Racist Patients.”

Several lawsuits in recent years have been filed by nurses alleging hospitals failed to intervene when patients harassed or abused them on the basis of racial discrimination. A federal appeals court in 2010 upheld a trial court decision finding a nursing home violated federal civil rights law in declining to hire a black nurse because a number of the residents at the nursing home were racist. In another case in Michigan, a nurse sued a hospital after a newborn’s father, sporting a prominent swastika tattoo, posted a sign outside of the door that read, “No African American nurse to take care of baby” – a demand the hospital accommodated.

As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, hospitals can be held liable for racial discrimination lawsuits against staffers by patients. In the case of McCrary v. Oakwood Healthcare Inc., in 2016, a federal district court in Michigan ruled that because there was no training or other advice given to employees on how to handle race-based requests from patients, reasonable jurors could conclude that by recording these requests and failing to train workers that they were to reject them, the hospital was allowing assignment of employee duties based on race.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Racism in Nursing: An Open Secret, 2017, Nurse.org

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California Janitor Sexual Harassment Bill Vetoed, Door Still Open for Further Action, Dec. 14, 2018, Orange County Racial Discrimination Lawyer Blog