Nurses told not to touch white patient - WNEM TV 5

Nurses told not to touch white patient

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The Shiawassee County Medical Care facility -- photo courtesy of the Shiawassee County Medical Care website. The Shiawassee County Medical Care facility -- photo courtesy of the Shiawassee County Medical Care website.
SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

WNEM TV5 has been notified of a situation at a county medical care facility where some employees have been disciplined after complaining of an unfair workload.

The allegations are being leveled at the Shiawassee County Medical Care Facility, a nursing home in Corunna.

The employee told TV5 that last Friday, July 19, two African-American employees complained that they were given a heavier workload than white employees doing the same jobs. The employee said since then, the two employees have been off work.

That employee told TV5 that when she reported for work on Sunday, she was given part of those two employee's workloads, but that she and an African-American RN were told that they could not work with a specific white male patient. They were told no African-American employees could care for the resident.

The employee stated that the decision not to allow African-American employees to touch the resident came after the resident complained of being bruised by an African-American employee, but later the resident recanted and said it wasn't true.

The decision is disappointing to Julie Gafkay, who's worked on civil rights cases like this before. She was the attorney who handled the case of Tonya Battle, the Hurley nurse who also happened to be black.

"It's outrageous that a medical facility would grant this request, especially on the heels of the battle against hurley medical center case, that there was a public outcry that a patient's request based on race would be granted," said Battle.

Battle was told she couldn't care for a newborn at the request of the baby's white parents. She says Butler's situation is very similar.

"In my legal opinion, a patient can not request somebody to not work with them based on race. This is clearly illegal under federal law, I believe it's illegal under state law as well."

She says her proof can be found in the body of the civil rights act of 1964.

TV5 reached out to the Shiawassee County Medical Care Facility for comment. Facility administrator Rick Cordonnier confirmed the employee's information. Cordonnier said the facility is complying with the patient's wishes in barring African-American employees from caring for him. He told TV5 the facility follows the same policy if a resident does not want care from an employee of the opposite gender.

"We are protecting staff members from potential allegations," said Cordonnier. He said the facility does need to comply with resident's preferences for care. As for the complaints of heavy workloads by the two African-American employees, Cordonnier said that specific case is still being reviewed, but said "the facility treats all employees fairly." Cordonnier said workloads are adapted daily, or even hourly, to meet the residents' needs.

Cordonnier told TV5 he was not familiar with the incident involving the white resident complaining of being bruised by an African-American, but then retracted that statement.

Meanwhile, Butler says she's still not sure what actions she'll take but does want to give her employer a little bit of time to address the situation and rectify it.

Stay with WNEM.com and TV5 as we investigate this story further.

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