One nurse is taking legal action against a Michigan hospital after she and other black nurses were barred from caring after a newborn on account of the color of their skin. Tonya Battle, 49, tells USA Today that she could not even believe what was happening to her.
According to court documents obtained by the publication, Battle argues that the hospital had her and other black nurses barred (read: reassigned) at the father’s request.
“I didn't even know how to react,” Battle explains.
She has been working with the neonatal intensive care unit at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint for long and this has never happened to her.
“Battle's lawsuit states a note was posted on the assignment clipboard reading ‘No African American nurse to take care of baby,’ according to the eight-page complaint against the medical center,” USA Today reports.
The nurse says the incident occurred in November, when she and the father who requested she be reassigned first met.
“I introduced myself to him. ‘Hi, I'm Tonya and I'm taking care of your baby. Can I see your (identification) band?’ And he said in return, ‘And I need to see your supervisor’,” Battle recalls.
Another nurse told Battle that, during the conversation with the supervisor, the man lifted his sleeve to reveal what appeared to be a swastika tattoo.
For a month from this moment, neither Battle nor other black nurses were allowed to come near the baby. The hospital removed the “No African American” note from the file shortly afterwards.
Her lawyer says that, while such requests from patients are not as rare as the world might think, it was the hospital’s duty to not enable racial discrimination by giving in to them.
“Battle is seeking punitive damages for emotional stress, mental anguish, humiliation and damage to her reputation,” USA Today reports.
Contacted for comment on the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the hospital said they would not comment on ongoing litigation.