Who would have thought that when Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Law in 1987, it would cause some nursing homes to so contort patient privacy rights to knowingly adopt exclusionary policies based on race?
Marjorie Latshaw, a resident at the Plainfield Healthcare Center Nursing Home didn’t want Blacks taking care of her. And she wasn’t the only one. And so Plainfield adopted a policy of honoring the racial preferences of its residents in assigning health-care providers. Talk about misguided ‘customer service.’
Plainfield said it did so because “it otherwise risked violating state and federal laws that grant residents the rights to choose providers, to privacy, and to bodily autonomy.”
After, at first, acceding to the policy because she was afraid of losing her job, Certified Nursing Assistant Brenda Chaney later had enough, especially when co-workers, emboldened by the exclusionary policy felt at liberty to racially insult her. In its Opinion, the Court described the hostile workplace as follows, “For instance, in the presence of a resident, a white nurse aide named Audria called Chaney a “black bitch.” Another time, a white coworker looked directly at Chaney and asked why Plainfield ”. . . keep[s] on hiring all of these black niggers? They’re not gonna stay anyway.”“” Chaney filed suit under Title VII claiming that Plainfield’s practice of acceding to its residents’ racial biases was illegal and created a hostile work environment. She also asserted she was fired because she was Black.
It’s one thing not to want a caregiver or medical provider of the opposite sex. But if comes to expressing a race-based preference on a patient’s right to privacy, well the 7th Circuit begs to differ, writing “. . .Title VII allows an employer to respect a preference for same-sex heath providers, but not same-race providers.”
A good recap of the case can be found at 7th Circuit: Title VII Trumps Patient’s Request for White-Only. But to read the entire decision, see Chaney v. Plainfield, 7th Cir., No. 09-3661.