Nurse Sues Hospital for Allegedly Reassigning Her Because of Her Race

March 5, 2013

Baby_nursery_room.jpgA nurse at a hospital in Flint, Michigan is suing her employer for alleged racial discrimination and civil rights violations. Battle v. Board of Hospital Managers of Hurley Medical Center, et al, No. 13-99763, complaint and jury demand (Mich. Cir. - Genesee Co., Jan. 21, 2013). She claims that the hospital reassigned an infant under her care to a different nurse after the infant's father demanded a nurse who was not African American. The lawsuit, which names the hospital and a supervisor as defendants, asserts causes of action for equal protection violations, violations of state anti-discrimination law, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to her complaint, the plaintiff, Tonya Battle, began working at Hurley Medical Center in June 1988 as a registered nurse (RN) in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She alleges that she was caring for an infant in the NICU on October 31, 2012, when the infant's father asked to speak to her supervisor. The charge nurse then spoke to the father, and Battle allegedly heard him tell the charge nurse that "he did not want any African Americans taking care of his baby." Complaint at 3. Battle also alleges that the man pulled up his sleeve to display a tattoo that she believed was a swastika. The charge nurse relayed the father's request to the nurse manager, Mary Osika, who allegedly told the charge nurse to reassign the infant.

Osika met with hospital officials the following day, according to the complaint, including the Director of Women's and Children's Services and the Director of Nursing. They made the decision to grant the request that no African American staff care for the infant. Osika informed the plaintiff of this by telephone. When Battle returned to work later that day, she alleges that she saw a note on the assignment clipboard that stated "NO AFRICAN AMERICAN NURSE TO TAKE CARE OF BABY." Id. at 4. The complaint states that the hospital's counsel informed Osika at some point after this that her decision was not lawful, and that someone informed the infant's father that the hospital would not continue to accede to his request. The hospital continued the practice of not assigning African American employees to care for the infant for about another month.

Battle filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging racial discrimination in December 2012. In January 2013, she filed suit against Osika and the hospital in circuit court. Her complaint asserts that the hospital is a municipal subdivision of the City of Flint, and that the hospital and Osika are therefore liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for equal protection violations. Battle also claims that the defendants discriminated against her based on her race in violation of Michigan's civil rights law. This law is similar to New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, which prohibits employers from "subject[ing] people to differential treatment based on race" and other factors. Finally, the lawsuit asserts a cause of action against Osika for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit demands compensatory damages from all defendants for "mental anguish and emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation, and damage to [the plaintiff's] professional reputation." Complaint at 8. It also demands punitive damages from the hospital for equal protection violations.

If you need to speak to a race discrimination attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or 646-867-7997.

Web Resources:

Complaint and Jury Demand (PDF file), No. 13-99763, Battle v. Board of Hospital Managers of Hurley Medical Center, et al, Circuit Court of Genesee County, Michigan, January 21, 2013

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Employment Discrimination: State Police Refuse to Answer Questions about Promotional Policies, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 23, 2012

Specified New Jersey Workers and Their Rights, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, December 5, 2011

New Jersey Police Race Discrimination Lawsuit Settled, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, July 26, 2011

Photo credit: By Lars Plougmann from London, United Kingdom [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.