Nurse’s Case not Doomed by Delay in Complaining

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A Veterans Administration nurse who waited years before filing a workplace harassment suit can press her case despite the defendants claims the delay prejudiced the case against them, a federal judge ruled.
     Michele Brink, a white registered nurse, began working at the Hampton, Va. Veterans Affairs Medical Center in September 2006, and claimed in a lawsuit filed eight years later that she was subjected to harassment because of her race almost from her first day on the job.
     Brink said her coworkers referred to her as “white girl” and frequently discussed lynching, the Ku Klux Klan, the oppression of blacks, black men dating white women, and O.J. Simpson in her presence.
     As recounted by U.S. District Judge Mark Davis, by the late spring and early summer of 2009, the alleged overt harassment became so bad, that Brink would go home at night, deeply upset, and unburden herself to her husband.
     However, despite his advice that she report the harassment to her supervisor, Brink waited another two years before taking that action, Davis wrote.
     In her lawsuit, Brink said she discussed the situation with supervisor Pamela Orie in October 2011 and two times thereafter, but Orie questioned why it took so long for her to report the matter, and the harassment and ill-treatment continued until she was transferred to a new position.
     The defendants moved for Brink’s allegations to be dismissed as Brink “unreasonably delayed in waiting approximately three years before reporting the alleged racial harassment.”
     But Judge Mark S. Davis found McDonald’s laches defense fell short in the “comparatively short delay … compared to other laches cases,” citing “more genuine disputes of material fact as to the degree of prejudice Defendant has suffered from Plaintiff’s faded memory.”
     “That said, if the facts at trial establish that Plaintiff unreasonably delayed in complaining of the alleged harassment and such delay prejudiced Defendant, under the doctrine of laches, the Court will craft the appropriate remedy to show equity,” Davis concluded.

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