News September 09, 2022 at 10:15 am

Black worker at care home told she should ‘be used to’ racial slurs because she’s ‘from the south’

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

Francis Akhalbey September 09, 2022 at 10:15 am

September 09, 2022 at 10:15 am | News

The Elderwood care home is accused of allowing White patients to racially harass Black workers -- Photo Credit: StockMonkeys.com

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against a care home in Burlington alleging that the facility did nothing to stop Black workers from being racially abused by White patients. That was despite the fact that the aggrieved Black Elderwood workers raised complaints.

Per the EOCC, one of the Black workers who complained about the abuse was told by a manager at the facility that she should “be used to” racial slurs because she hails “from the South”, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The lawsuit also stated that Black nurses and nurse assistants, who notified supervisors and managers about the continuous racial abuse, were told that the elderly patients could “say what they want — including the use of racial slurs.”

The suit, which was filed on September 6, alleges that the people in charge at Elderwood allowed White patients to racially harass Black workers without doing anything to follow up on the complaints that were raised. 

The complaint alleged that Black workers were physically attacked by a specific male patient in several instances. The patient in question also pursued the workers around the facility and made racist comments such as telling them to “go back to Africa,” the complaint stated.

“This har­assment was especially grotesque, and should have been addressed quickly but was allowed to continue,” Timothy Riera, who is director of the EOCC’s New York district office, said in a statement. “An employer cannot ignore egregious racial harassment simply because the harassers are long-term care facility residents.”

Responding to the EOCC lawsuit, a spokesman for Elderwood, Charles Hayes, told McClatchy News that “we will vigorously defend our efforts to protect our staff from racial harassment.”

The lawsuit filed against Elderwood came after efforts by the EOCC to agree to a pre-litigation settlement with the care home facility proved futile, the news release stated. 

The lawsuit also stated that at the start of at least 2020, the care home allowed Black workers to carry out their duties in a hostile working environment, The Sacramento Bee reported. The complaint stated that white female patients and one white male patient racially harassed Black workers at the facility.

“Elderwood’s managers and supervisors personally observed the (the workers) being subjected to unwelcome race-based comments and conduct, including but not limited to Elderwood’ s Director of Nursing, various Nurse Supervisors, and various Unit Managers,” the complaint alleged.

The male patient is said to have punched an employee and smacked a different worker. The patient also struck a third worker with a walker, the complaint stated. The patient also allegedly put his finger on another worker’s face and threatened her.

And though the aggrieved workers filed complaints about the racial harassment, the care home allegedly did not address the issue. The EOCC said that the facility’s lack of action contravened Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuit wants Elderwood to ensure the aggrieved workers are “whole” by “providing compensation for past and future pecuniary losses … including emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, and humiliation, in amounts to be determined at trial.”

The suit also wants the care home to put in measures to ensure harassment of such nature does not occur in the future. 

Hayes informed McClatchy News that “all reports of inappropriate resident behavior are investigated and addressed”, adding that Elderwood “does not tolerate harassment of any kind, and prides itself on promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion.”

But in a statement, EEOC regional attorney Jeffrey Burstein said that Elderwood at Burlington had not taken any “effective response.”

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