Diana St Gerard, 64, a nurse in the mental health unit at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, Long Island claims that she was mocked by colleagues who said her Haitian accent was “irritating.” More importantly, Ms. St Gerard alleges that she was fired after complaining that several white staffers discriminated against her, minority patients and their families. She went on to explain that a co-worker even mocked her with a voodoo doll because of her nationality.
According to the suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, Ms. St Gerard said co-workers complained that the goat meat and Haitian food she brought to work was too spicy and left a foul odor the lunchroom, and that colleagues repeatedly asked her whether she practiced “black magic” or voodoo.
In addition, the lawsuit claims that a nurse told Ms. St. Gerard that she looked like a voodoo doll and wondered why she had light-colored skin since she came from a country of “dark-skinned people.”
Ms. St Gerard claimed in the lawsuit that the hospital’s management took no action, not even after a nurse brought to the mental health unit a black baby doll she had purchased at a flea market and began waving it around, saying the doll “looked just like St Gerard, the doll had the same evil eyes as her and the only difference was that she didn’t have a needle in the middle of her chest.”
The hospital has not yet commented publicly on the upcoming litigation and cited Ms. St Gerard’s anger issues and a purported failure to complete tasks as reason for her termination in June 2012.
Although the outcome of this case is unknown, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it clear that it is illegal for an employer to harass an employee or take adverse action against him or her because of the employee’s race, color, or ethnic background. Additionally, harassment can include any behavior that is racially charged such as offensive jokes, the use of ethnic slurs, and racially insensitive statements stereotyping groups of people.
If you or a loved one believe that you have been the victim of racial discrimination or employment discrimination of any kind, contact an experienced employment lawyer today. A skilled attorney will help ensure your legal rights are protected.