Nurse sues hospital, saying it obeyed patient who didn't want a black caregiver

The patient allegedly used an expletive describing Teoka Williams, who is black.

August 16, 2018, 7:02 PM

A Michigan nurse is suing the hospital she works at for racial discrimination after it allegedly complied with the request of a patient who said she didn't want to be looked after by an African-American woman and used an expletive to describe her.

Teoka Williams was working a shift at Beaumont Health in Dearborn on Oct. 2 last year when she was assigned to two patients, one of whom said in Williams' earshot that she did not want a “black b--ch” taking care of her, Williams said in the complaint filed in federal court in Michigan.

When Williams, who is black, reported the incident to a supervisor, expecting her to reject the patient's request, the supervisor instead forbade Williams from going into the room again and replaced her with a white nurse, according to the complaint.

"She was completely humiliated and embarrassed," said Julie Gafkay, Williams' lawyer. "She was very upset because she is a good nurse. There's no reason she should be excluded from caring for a patient. She was segregated based solely on her race."

Gafkay said when Williams complained to the human resources department, she was told that patient requests are honored all the time and that the next time such an incident occurred, she would simply be taken off the assignment altogether.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of this case because it is pending litigation, we can say that Beaumont’s highest priority is providing a safe environment that is free from discrimination for both our patients and staff, and delivering care with compassion, dignity and respect,” Beaumont Health said in a statement.

Gafkay said Williams, who has worked at the hospital for 10 years, had decided to bring the suit because she did not want a similar incident to happen to another caregiver.

In the suit, Williams alleged the hospital was “predisposed to discriminate based on race” and that its behavior violated the Civil Rights Act. She is pursuing monetary compensation, the amount of which a jury would decide.