Michigan Hospital Allegedly Bars Black Nurse From Touching White Patient

An east Michigan nurse sparked an uproar in February, when she claimed that she had been barred from taking care of a white baby, because she's black. Now an employee at a nursing home in the same area is claiming that her boss gave her a very similar dictate, which could be illegal.

Sandrea Butler, a nursing assistant at the Shiawassee County Medical Care Facility, says that a nurse told her that neither she nor any black employees could touch a specific white patient. Butler added that the patient had complained that he'd been bruised after being handled by a black worker, reports WNEM in Saginaw, but later retracted that. Her own experience with the older white man had been nothing but cordial, she said. They chatted baseball.

"It plays in your mind, and you feel like you are nothing," Butler told the TV station. "I know I'm something. I know I graduated from college. I know I have certificates. I know I've been working in the health care field for 12 years. But do you feel like you're as good as a white person?"

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She added that the public way the comment was made, in front of all the other residents, was particularly painful. As is the fact that she's dedicated herself to caring for all people. If that white man suddenly became critically ill, she said, she would race to his side to try to save his life.

"My certificate does not have a race on it," she added.

Rick Cordonnier, the facility administrator for the medical center didn't respond to AOL Jobs' request for comment, but in an interview with WNEM he defended the decision, saying it's important for the center to comply with a patient's wishes, whether it's a nurse of a specific gender, or race. "We are protecting staff members from potential allegations," he also said.

Making race-based decisions about what your employees can do on the job, even if at the request of a customer, violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to Justine Lisser, senior attorney-adviser at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency tasked with enforcing workplace anti-discrimination law.

"Customer preference is no excuse for race discrimination. It's pretty clear," she told AOL Jobs, adding that the one narrow exception when job discrimination is permissible, is when the job is profoundly intimate -- for example a home care aide who is responsible for bathing a patient. In that case it would be acceptable for someone to request a caregiver of the same gender.

"Just as the law tolerates same-sex restrooms or same-sex dressing rooms, but not white-only rooms, to accommodate privacy needs," explained employment lawyer and AOL Jobs contributor Donna Ballman over email, "Title VII allows an employer to respect a preference for same-sex health providers, but not same-race providers."

Another Michigan medical facility that was recently accused of obliging patient's racial preferences, the Hurley Medical Center in Flint, settled quickly with a black nurse for an undisclosed amount.

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I worked for the United States government for almost 30 years, the last 10 or so as a manager. There were occasions when a white client did not want to be interviewed by a black employee. My position was this: we owed the client polite, professional, and competent service. So if the complaint about any employee of any color was that they were rude or unprofessional or incompetent I would honor the client's request, and assign them to a different employee. I would do this even if I doubted the veracity of the complaint, because the complaint was at least based upon acceptable reasons.

But under no circumstances would I make a change of employee just because the customer did not want to talk to a black person (and one such case involved an Arab employee). In almost all of these cases the customer complained the moment they realized that a black employee had been assigned to them, before the employee had taken any action at all. I explained to the customer that they had a right to quality service, but it was MY decision who would render them that quality service. To do otherwise would be to let the customer veto my work assignments and scheduling for no valid reason. And I refused to dishonor and disrespect my employees in those cases. A few customers would then leave, but most would continue their business with the employee assigned. There was even one case where the customer apologized to the employee at the end of the interview.

March 24 2015 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard Gary

The occasions for a good career in healthcare should not be discriminated on the basis of skin colour. Read more here. http://healthcarecareers.us.com/

August 05 2013 at 12:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My two foster daughters who are black, work in a WalMart in Lumberton Texas, (big KKK town) and have had customers tell the managers that they shouldn't allow blacks to work there, or they don't want blacks waiting on them etc. If you were to hear their stories or see the look in their eyes when they ask me "why do white people hate us?" it might make folks realize that disrespecing fellow humans is more than shameful, it's hurtful and cruel. If you can't respect people for who they are and not what they look like then you have no heart or moral backbone.

August 02 2013 at 4:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There is an answer to this. Honor their request, tell them you are short staffed and take your time assigning a new nurse. They will get the message. We have this Philly every once in awhile,and almost without fail the patient is on Medicaid. Why would you want to treat someone who doesn't want you near them? I'm a lawyer and I had a prospective client tell me she was glad I wasn't a Jew but she was upset I was Catholic. I told her to get somebody else and suggested a Muslim.

August 01 2013 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought all the old bigots that didn't want black nurses and aides to touch them had died off already. Nope! Still a few more to go. Tick-tock. The clock is ticking.

August 01 2013 at 12:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

who milked that Cow This morning, ? who Baked that Bread? the Machine I guess, who caused the sun to shine? What is the color of God!s Skin?

July 31 2013 at 9:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You are a fool she is not even a NURSE so MINE you own Business. My Mother had a BLACK nurse AND SHE KILLED HER.........So Shut up

July 30 2013 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to morningirl501's comment

Didn't "60 Minutes" just do a story on a white male nurse that killed hundreds of patients? And for your information... she has the same degrees and certifications that anyone else in her field has. Are you suggesting that nurses assistants should have full medical degrees if they are black? You are a moron. We can only imagine why your mother was actually killed.

August 01 2013 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Discrimination goes both ways. I had many African-American patients tell me that they didn't want me to take care of them because I was white RN and they only wanted a black RN to take care of them. It wasn't said very nicely either. I was called just about every derogatory name there is for a white person.
I was taught that all people are created equal regardless of the color of their skin. What a better world this would be if we were all colorblind.

July 30 2013 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Linda's comment

But did your boss force those restrictions upon you?

August 01 2013 at 10:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

But I bet no one ordered you to not do your job. Did they? And I bet you went right back to poking the black patients hard with the needles. Didn't you?

August 01 2013 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If they feel they do not want Blacks touching them they have the right to speak out......Let it go whe will not win. We live in a Race World since that man got in office this world has spiral down hill....Hate me Boo me I do not care truth hurts and I am just being honest. Blacks do not like us. And I do not like them

July 30 2013 at 5:42 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to morningirl501's comment

Patients in hospitals, nursing care facilities, clinics, etc. do NOT get to dictate who cares for their needs while there. Your health care insurance allows you to choose a DOCTOR, but not the lab tech or the health aide or the nursing administrative staff or anyone else.

July 30 2013 at 4:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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