Racism — February 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm

2nd nurse sues Hurley Hospital for complying with racist’s demands; original lawsuit goes to federal court


Racism shall not be tolerated

A second nurse has joined Tonya Battle in filing a lawsuit against Flint hospital Hurley Medical Center. Carlotta Armstrong claims that, like Battle, she was subjected to racial discrimination when administrators complied with a blatantly racist father’s demand that no African American nurses care of his baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The new lawsuit, filed Thursday, Feb. 21 in Genesee Circuit Court, echoes the claim of nurse Tonya Battle who sued Hurley in January, claiming she was not allowed to treat the same infant because of her race.

“This reminds me of Rosa Parks (being told to) sit in the back of the bus,” said Tom Pabst, a Flint attorney who filed the second lawsuit on behalf of nurse Carlotta Armstrong. This is “relegating competent, good people … to second-class employees.”

The hospital admits that they initially complied with the racist’s demand after he revealed a swastika tattoo on his arm. They claim, however, that they reversed their position later. Here’s their statement:

Hurley is proud to be the safety net provider for this community for over 105 years. We value the support of the patients who entrust us with their care and the dedication of our physicians and staff. This includes Nurse Battle and her quarter century of professionalism and dedication.

While I cannot comment on the suit and answer questions, I can share some insights. The issue was triggered by a father of a baby who demanded that no African American nurse be involved in his baby’s care. Upon making his demand, he then showed Nurse Battle’s supervisor his swastika tattoo, which created anger and outrage in our staff. This resulted in concern by supervisors for the safety of the staff. For these reasons, the request was initially evaluated; however, the father was informed that his request could not be granted.

Hurley Medical Center has had a rich history and reputation of supporting and valuing diversity and remains committed to our policy of non discrimination. As a premier academic medical center, Hurley strives to continuously provide education to our staff. This issue will be used in future training sessions to ensure that employees are prepared to handle situations such as this. We appreciate the community’s concern and involvement, as we publicly clarify the facts of this case. The medical center looks forward to a quick and amicable resolution.

Melany Gavulic, RN, MBA
President & Chief Executive Officer
Hurley Medical Center

Battle says this was untrue and that black nurses were prevented from caring for the baby for the several weeks it was under the hospital’s care.

Meanwhile, Battle’s lawsuit has been moved from the Genesee Circuit Court to federal court upon the request of Hurley attorney Joan N. Pierson.

A notice of removal filed in U.S. District Court says Battle claimed Hurley had a duty not to purposely interfere with her federally protected Constitutional rights, particularly the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Hurley attorney Joan N. Pierson said in the federal court filing that U.S. District Court has jurisdiction over Battle’s constitutional claim and may also assume jurisdiction over her claims under state law.

This story is finally getting the attention it deserves, in part due to protest’s by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network led by Rev. Charles Williams II, the President of the Michigan Chapter of the National Action Network. To treat NICU nurses who receive training above and beyond the typical training for a registered nurse in this way is an affront to the sensibilities of thoughtful Americans. This sort of racist behavior where men and women are treated as second class citizens should not be tolerated and when civil rights are trampled in this way, dealt with accordingly.