CNN reports that a Flint, Michigan, nurse is suing her
hospital because it kowtowed to a man's request that no African-American
employees care for his baby. The lawsuit [pdf] outlines her key allegations:
11. The father told the Charge
Nurse that he did not want any African Americans taking care of his baby. While
telling the Charge Nurse, he pulled up his sleeve and showed some type of
tattoo which was believed to be a swastika of some kind.
12. After the father made the
discriminatory request to not allow African Americans to take care of his baby,
instead of flatly denying the request, the Charge Nurse called the Nurse
Manager, Defendant Osika.
13. Defendant Osika told the
Charge Nurse, Herholz, to re-assign the baby to another nurse and to advise
Plaintiff that Defendant Osika, would speak to her supervisor and take care of
it the next day.
14. Plaintiff was re-assigned on
or about October 31, 2012 because she is African American....
19. When Plaintiff reported to
her work, she learned that during that day there was a note prominently posted
on the assignment clipboard that read as follows: "NO AFRICAN AMERICAN NURSE TO
TAKE CARE OF BABY." Plaintiff was shown a picture of the note.
Let's make this as clear as possible. Adhering to the
request of a customer is not a defense to a race discrimination claim. As one court succinctly stated : "It is now widely accepted
that a company's desire to cater to the perceived racial preferences of its
customers is not a defense under Title VII for treating employees differently
based on race." (Note that the same might not hold true for a customer
preference based on gender, because employers can claim a bona fide occupational qualification as a defense to a sex
If you find yourself in a position of having to face down
a customer making such a request, take a stand. Tell the customer, "We don't
treat our employees like that, and if you can't deal, we don't need your
business." Be the better corporate citizen. It's not just the legal way to act,
it's the moral way to act.
Visit the Ohio Employer's Law Blog for more
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