Suit: Hospital Honored Patient’s Request Not to Have Black Nurse

DEARBORN, Mich.— A nurse is suing a Michigan hospital for allegedly honoring a patient’s request to not be cared for by a black woman.

Teoka Williams filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, alleging that the health system violated federal and state civil rights laws by barring her from caring for a patient because of her race.

Williams, who has worked as a registered nurse at Beaumont for 10 years, said she overheard a patient in October 2017 request to not have a black woman as a caregiver. Williams said she reported the comment to her clinical manager, who then restricted her from caring for the patient.

Williams’ suit contends that she complained to the hospital’s human resources department about the issue. Williams alleges she was told that “patient requests are honored all the time and the next time it happens she would simply be taken off the assignment altogether.”

Beaumont Hospital declined to comment on pending litigation. But the health system issued a statement saying that its “highest priority is providing a safe environment that is free from discrimination for both our patients and staff, and delivering care with compassion, dignity and respect.”

Williams’ attorney Julie Gafkay said health care institutions shouldn’t accommodate patients’ requests at the expense of employees’ civil rights.

Gafkay said the lawsuit “is about being denied the opportunity to do your job duties based on your race, and being segregated from your job duties based on your race.” She said the health system “accommodated racism and allowed a patient to discriminate against a very good and valuable employee.”

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs and attorney fees.

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