While it shouldn't be the case in 2013, the sad reality is that racism is still alive and well in America. Few places is this more apparent than in the workplace. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred employers from engaging in race discrimination, but how far do these employee protections extend?
For instance, what happens if a company's customers or clients don't want to interact with an employee of a different race? Is it the company's job to fulfill the client's request, or do they have to uphold the rights of their workers?
Despite what the old saying claims, the customer is not always right. And with very few exceptions, employers are prohibited from enacting policies or complying with customer requests that institutionalize discrimination or facilitate a hostile work environment.
A perfect example of what not to do comes from Michigan. An African-American nurse who has been a dedicated hospital employee since 1988 is suing her employer for racial discrimination for reassigning her based on her skin color.
She was caring for a particular child in the neonatal intensive care unit. Upon witnessing this, the baby's father asked to speak with her supervisor. The man explained that he didn't want an African-American staff member looking after his child. By way of explanation, the man then reportedly pulled up his shirt sleeve to reveal a tattoo that was believed to be a Swastika.
The father's request was honored and the baby was reassigned to a different nurse. Later that day, a staff meeting was held to inform everyone about the man's wishes. The next day, a note appeared on the staffing assignments clipboard that said: "No African-American nurse to take care of baby."
Later on, the man was informed that the hospital would not comply with his request. Despite this, however, no African-American nurses were allowed to be assigned to the child over the next month.
This is no way to treat any employee, much less one who has been a valuable worker for the last 25 years. Hopefully this lawsuit will provide a much needed reminder of that fact.
Source: International Business Times, "African-American Nurse Sues Michigan Hospital For Racial Discrimination, Father Requests She Not Care For His Baby," Feb. 15, 2013