Care Facility Faces Federal Lawsuit for Allowing Patients to Racially Harass Nurses

·2 min read
Photo:  Igor Golovko (Shutterstock)
Photo: Igor Golovko (Shutterstock)

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit against a care home facility on behalf of Black nurses and nurse assistants who were subjected to “unremedied racial abuse” from patients, according to The Sacramento Bee. One nurse alleges a manager a told her she should “be used to” being called racial slurs by now.

According to the suit, the patients at Elderwood, a long-time care facility in Burlington, Vt., have been repeatedly touting racial slurs at the Black nurses and nurse assistants. These insults have ranged from “monkey” to the n-word to “go back to Africa.” Along with verbal abuse, some employees claim they suffered physical assault including punching and smacking. The suit alleges all complaints regarding the racial harassment went overlooked.

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One Black nurse received a response from a manager saying she should be used to the racial slurs because she’s “from the South.”

More on the suit from the EEOC:

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race. Race harassment is a form of race discrimination that is prohibited by the statute.

The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont (EEOC v. 98 Starr Road Operating Co., LLC, d/b/a Elderwood at Burlington, 2:22-cv-00168), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process. The EEOC seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages for the affected employees, and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent future workplace racial harassment.

“Federal law requires that an employer take prompt and effective remedial action to prevent race harassment of its employees in the workplace, including where the harassers are patients or customers,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Here, Black employees were subjected to ongoing racial abuse for months on end without any effective response by Elderwood. Such misconduct is clearly unlawful, and the EEOC is here to stop it.”

Elderwood spokesperson Charles Hayes told McClatchy News all complaints were investigated and the facility prides itself on “diversity and inclusion” which … doesn’t do much to address the situation at hand.

The facility can’t do anti-racist screenings when accepting patients. However, they are obligated to protect their staff in the way they’re obligated to protect their patients from harm. We hear so many cases of patients being abused by nurses but not that many where the tables are turned.

No Black person should have to endure this treatment while simply trying to do their job.