Hurley settles race discrimination lawsuit - WNEM TV 5

Hurley settles race discrimination lawsuit

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A photo showing a page of the lawsuit filed by the nurse. A photo showing a page of the lawsuit filed by the nurse.

Hurley Medical Center in Flint has settled a lawsuit that alleged racial discrimination between a nurse and hospital staff.

Nurse Tonya Battle was at the news conference where Hurley made a joint statement regarding her racial discrimination lawsuit.

The decision comes after a marathon negotiating session Thursday, according to the nurse's husband. Friday, both sides acknowledged they have reached a settlement.

According to court documents, she was caring for a baby when the child's father made a request that no African-American nurses take care of his baby. The father then showed the nurse a swastika tattoo.

"It was just unbelievable. I was just dumbfounded somebody would be making that request. I just felt like I was taken back in time," said Battle, when asked how she felt about her incident.

According to the lawsuit, the hospital didn't assign any black nurses to the baby during the hospital stay, which lasted more than a month. The lawsuit also refers to a note taped on a hospital clipboard, "No African-American nurse to take care of baby."

"I don't think that his request should have been honored. I think that every nurse in the NICU here at the medical center is qualified to take care of every baby, and we do, every patient. We don't see color, I don't think, I don't, when I'm taking care of a baby, I don't see color," said Battle.

It's been called one of medicine's "open secrets" - allowing patients to refuse treatment by a doctor or nurse of another race.

The Michigan cases are among several lawsuits filed in recent years that highlight this seldom-discussed issue, which quietly persists almost 60 years after the start of the civil rights movement. Friday night, Hurley's CEO held a news conference to say the hospital will use this case and move forward.

"We will use the circumstances of this issue for future training sessions to make sure employees are prepared to appropriately handle situations like this," said Hurley CEO Melany Gavulic.

The American Medical Association's code of ethics bars doctors from refusing to treat people based on race, gender and other criteria, but there are no specific policies for handling race-based requests from patients.

"Obviously there was a problem there, so we can bring it to light and work together so it doesn't happen again," said Battle, who hopes this lawsuit and settlement will be another proof racial discrimination is not acceptable in the workplace.

Copyright 2013 WNEM (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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