Moral Low Ground

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Black Michigan Nurse Sandrea Butler Told No Touching White Nursing Home Patient

WNEM TV 5

Two African American employees of a Michigan nursing home have alleged, and the administrator of the facility has confirmed, that they were ordered not to touch a white patient who didn’t want blacks caring for him.

WNEM reports the incident occurred at Shiawassee County Medical Care Facility (SCMCF) in Corunna, about 90 miles (145 km) northwest of Detroit. Two black female employees allege that they were given a heavier workload than their white colleagues who had the same jobs. One of the women, nursing assistant Sandrea Butler, said that she and a black registered nurse were also informed that they were prohibited from caring for a particular white patient who did not want any African Americans tending to him. According to the employee, the white patient claimed he had been bruised by another black caretaker, but the man later recanted his story.

“(I’ve) never, ever been treated this way before,” Butler told WNEM. “It hurts, it really hurts, especially because I’m there to take care of them.”

SCMCF administrator Rick Cordonnier confirmed the allegations in an interview with WNEM, telling the station that the facility was complying with the patient’s wishes.

“We are protecting staff members from potential allegations,” Cordonnier explained, adding that facility policy also allows gender-based treatment preferences.

Regarding the complaints about black employees being burdened with heavier workloads, Cordonnier said that the case is being reviewed and insisted that “the facility treats all employees fairly.”

Julie Gafkay, an attorney specializing in discrimination cases, has seen similar incidents before. Gafkay represented Tonya Battle, a neonatal intensive care nurse at Hurley Medical Center in Hurley, Michigan, who received nearly $200,000 in a March settlement after she was barred from caring for a white infant at the father’s request.

“In my legal opinion, a patient cannot request somebody to not work with them based on race,” Gafkay told WNEM. “This is clearly illegal under federal law,” she added, pointing to the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.

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