(CN) – A nursing home in Indianapolis violated antidiscrimination laws by complying with a resident’s request to have no interaction with black aides, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Brenda Chaney, a black nursing aide at the Plainfield Healthcare Center, accused her former employer of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by acquiescing when Marjorie Latshaw asked for white nursing aides only.
Chaney said the nursing home put “Prefers No Black [nursing aids]” on its daily assignment sheet, barring black assistants from helping Latshaw or even entering her room.
When she saw that Latshaw had fallen, Chaney said she was forced to find a white aide instead of immediately helping her up.
Plainfield said it had complied with the request to avoid violating state and federal laws allowing residents to choose their own health care providers in the interest of privacy.
Chaney also claimed that her co-workers made racist comments that disrupted her work environment. She said she was deeply depressed by the racial tension, and her firing in September 2006 had been racially motivated.
But Plainfield said it fired Chaney for using profanity when assisting a patient. “[S]he’s shitting,” Chaney allegedly said while helping lift a resident onto her bedside commode.
The district court sided with Plainfield, but the 7th Circuit in Chicago reversed.
Judge Ann Claire Williams noted that Indiana’s patient-rights laws, on which Plainfield had allegedly relied, were meant to let patients choose their doctor’s gender, not race.
“The privacy interest that is offended when one undresses in front of a doctor or nurse of the opposite sex does not apply to race,” Williams wrote.
The federal appeals court determined that Plainfield’s failure to check the legality of its actions allows the center to be held accountable for the Title VII violation.
“Plainfield told Chaney that it was excluding her from work areas and residents solely on account of her race, creating a racially charged workplace that poisoned the work environment,” Williams wrote.
Chaney’s discrimination and wrongful firing claims will be reheard by the district court.