Black nurses allege they were barred from white patients

Four women are suing a nursing company because they claim the company screened nurses based on race before sending them to patients’ homes.The former staffers at Accord Services in Greater Atlanta allege the health-care company would describe nurses as “too black, too ethnic, and too old or too ghetto”, according to the 63-page lawsuit.

“Defendants intentionally discriminated against black applicants and employees, including both African-Americans and Africans, in favor of Caucasian and Hispanic applicants and employees,” said the federal lawsuit.

The four plaintiffs said the “negative stereotyping of blacks created a working environment permeated with hostility towards blacks.”

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However, a spokesman for the company said the plaintiffs were little more than disgruntled ex-employees who had either resigned or were fired.

“I read the allegation, and it is completely false,” administrator Freddy Allen told Channel 2 Action News. Allen, who is black, said many African American nurses who have worked for Accord Services for almost a decade.

The plaintiffs are listed as Erika Arnold, Tracee Goodman, Debra Trawick and Christine Muchene. They claim violations under the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

Before placing someone in a position, I was blatantly asked in front of a group of people what color is she or how old is she,” said Tracee Goodman, a former Accord Services Human Resources employee.

Goodman worked at the company between October 2006 and December 2008 and her role included verifying applications and conducting background checks.

“You could hear something from, ‘We can’t use a nurse because they were too ghetto,’ or ‘This client doesn’t prefer foreigners’ and ‘Black women are not professional,’” Arnold, a former human resources manager, said in the lawsuit. She was hired in June 2007 and fired in April 2009.

Trawick, a white office manager who worked at Accord between June and August 2009, said there was an atmosphere of institutionalized racism and the company openly discussed clients’ preferences for white or younger nurses and nurse’s aides.

”’You gotta staff him with a WG because you know he doesn’t want a black person,’” Trawick said in recalling comments at meetings. ”’We can’t use her. She is missing a tooth and [is] too ghetto.’”

Muchene, a certified nurse’s aide and a Kenyan, said she first applied to Accord in 2007 and every year she was told her application was active and she would be called if a position became available. She said she was never called even after seeing postings for job openings that later would be filled. Trawick, while she was office manager, said that when she inquired about Muchene’s application, she was told the company preferred younger applicants and non-Africans.

“She said it was a problem with the race, and they couldn’t hire anybody from Africa or somebody my age,” nursing assistant Christene Muchene told Channel 2 Action News.

Muchene, a permanent legal U.S. resident, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued her a “notice of right to sue.”

An attorney for the plaintiffs said the women want a jury to decide monetary damages.