Suit Accuses Faculty of Honoring Racist Staffing Demands

ZEELAND, Mich. — A health care center in western Michigan is accused of agreeing to requests by patients for white-only caregivers.

Six black certified nursing assistants filed a lawsuit April 11 against Providence Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, where they all work or formerly worked. The Zeeland facility offers memory care, rehabilitation, retirement and assisted living to mostly senior patients.

The CNAs are accusing the center of race discrimination, race harassment and retaliation. They’re seeking compensation for mental anguish, emotional distress and damage to their professional reputation.

“It’s embarrassing and humiliating and it shouldn’t be tolerated,” said Julie Gafkay, an attorney for the women.

The CNAs listed in the lawsuit are Kimberly French, Gloria Reid, Tiesha Branch, Marquita Mills, Providence Ngoh and Valencia Washington.

Sheila King, a Providence Life Services spokeswoman, declined to comment on the allegations due to the litigation but said Providence doesn’t change staff assignments based on race. The center falls under a nonprofit that also has locations in Illinois and Indiana.

The lawsuit alleges some residents said they didn’t want black caregivers, and the facility would grant the requests and put them in the patient’s care plan.

“When (the CNAs) were assigned to care for said patients, they would be switched with a Caucasian employee, they would be told not to care for the patient,” Gafkay said. “If they cared for the patients, they were called racist names by the patients who believed such requests were permissible because (Providence Healthcare’s) failure to properly address.”

Working conditions worsened for the caregivers after making a formal complaint in January against the administrator, according to the lawsuit.

Premium Employers