An African-American nurse is suing a Michigan hospital where she works, claiming managers there approved an unnamed father's request to restrict African Americans from caring for his son.
Tonya Battle, 49, is seeking punitive damages for emotional stress, mental anguish, humiliation, and damage to her reputation after the father purportedly asked a head nurse not to allow black nurses to tend to his newborn.
Managers at Hurley Medical Center in Flint appeased the father by consenting to his request, and a note was written on the newborn's chart that said, "No African American nurse to take care of baby," according to the eight-page suit filed against the medical center, the Detroit Free Press
"What flashed in my mind is, 'What's next? A note on the water fountain that says 'No blacks?' Or a note on the bathroom that says 'No blacks'?" Battle told the newspaper.
She said an encounter with the father on Oct. 31, 2012, left her more offended.
Battle said she was assigned to the neonatal intensive care unit and was with the infant when the father approached her.
"I introduced myself to him. 'Hi, I'm Tonya and I'm taking care of your baby. Can I see your (identification) band?' " she said. "And he said in return, 'And I need to see your supervisor.'"
She said she summoned the head nurse who pulled the man aside.
The man said that he wanted only a white nurse to care for the child, according to the suit, and rolled up his sleeve to revealed a swastika tattooed on his arm.
Battle was then reassigned in the 443-bed hospital, where she has worked for 25 years, the complaint says.
Lawyers said that although the law doesn't clearly define the issue, Battle has a good chance of winning the case. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial favoritism is illegal in the workplace.
"The patient's father has the right to select the hospital to treat the child. The father does not have the right to exercise control over the hospital in discrimination of its employees," Larry Dublin, a law professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, told the Detroit Free Press.
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