Black nurse says hospital wouldn't let her care for white baby

Tonya Battle says this note was posted on the assignment clipboard: "No African American nurse to take care of baby."

A black nurse was left speechless when a Michigan hospital agreed, she said, to a white man's request that no black employees be allowed to care for his newborn.

"What flashed in my mind is, 'What's next? A note on the water fountain that says 'No blacks?' Or a note on the bathroom that says 'No blacks'?" Tonya Battle told the Detroit Free Press on Monday.

Battle, 49, is suing Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich., for racial discrimination. She said the incident caused her emotional distress, mental anguish and "extreme embarrassment and humiliation."

The hospital did not immediately return a call and email from MSN News for comment. In a brief statement Monday, the hospital told the Free Press it does not comment on past or current litigation.

The civil lawsuit, filed in Genesee County Circuit Court, seeks unspecified damages. It gives the following account:

Battle, who has worked at Hurley Medical Center for nearly 25 years, was caring for an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit on Oct. 31 when the infant's father asked to speak to her supervisor.

"The father told the charge nurse that he did not want any African-Americans taking care of his baby. While telling the charge nurse, he pulled up his sleeve and showed some type of tattoo which was believed to be a swastika of some kind," the lawsuit says.

The charge nurse called the nurse manager, who told the charge nurse to reassign the baby to another nurse. The next day, after a staff meeting, the hospital agreed to grant the father's request that no black employees take care of his baby.

When Battle returned to work, she learned that a note had been posted prominently on the assignment clipboard that read: "No African American nurse to take care of baby."

The hospital's attorney told the nurse manager such action was not allowed, and the father was subsequently told his request could not continue to be granted.

But the lawsuit says the discriminatory request was still followed in practice for the balance of the time that the baby was in the unit and blacks were intentionally not assigned to the child for approximately the next month.

"It is race discrimination, and it is a violation of Tonya’s civil rights under the Equal Protection Clause" of the 14th Amendment, Battle's attorney, Julie Gafkay, told 'Tom Joyner Morning Show' commentator Jacque Reid. "This is a public hospital, a city hospital, and they’re charged with the responsibility of following the Constitution."

The hospital has an Office of Diversity and said on its website:

"At Hurley Medical Center, embracing diversity and understanding and accepting our differences is at the very heart of our hospital’s culture. Accepting and valuing the differences inherent in every individual — employee, patients, and patients’ friends and family — and recognizing the contribution he or she can make to our medical center is central to delivering the highest standard of patient care."

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