A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Tonya Battle

Racism in the Baby Ward

By Mike Brancheau

Tonya Battle is an African American registered nurse who has worked for Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan for the past 25 years. Last October, Ms. Battle was caring for a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (“NICU”) when the father approached her station and reached for the child. Ms. Battle informed the man that she was the baby’s nurse and requested to see the man’s identification bracelet. The man abruptly responded that he needed to speak to Ms. Battle’s supervisor.

After speaking with the father, the Charge Nurse of the NICU informed Ms. Battle that the father did not want an African American nurse caring for his baby. In response to the request, a note was attached to the child’s clipboard that said: “Please, No African American Nurses to care for [name omitted] baby per dad’s request. Thank you.”

Some time after that, an attorney for the hospital informed the Nurse Manager that the father’s request could not be honored and that the sign should be removed. But according to Ms. Battle, even though the sign came down, the hospital made sure that no African American nurses were assigned to care for the baby for the next month.

On February 18, The Inquisitr reported that Ms. Battle was suing the hospital for discrimination in violation of the 14th Amendment. In her complaint, Ms. Battle stated that she was “shocked, offended, and in disbelief” that her longtime employer would so egregiously discriminate against her based upon her race.

On February 19, Hurley’s CEO, Melany Gavulic, responding to the story, stated, “the father was informed that his request could not be granted,” and that “all nurses remained available to care for his baby.”

On February 22, The Detroit Free Press reported that Hurley Medical Center had settled the lawsuit with Ms. Battle. It now faces a lawsuit from a second African American nurse, Carlotta Armstrong.

Ms. Battle sued Hurley Medical Center pursuant to Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Ms. Armstrong filed her lawsuit under only the state law.  LASIS will explain why Hurley Medical Center was wise to quickly settle the lawsuit with Ms. Battle and should do the same in the lawsuit with Ms. Armstrong.

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