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'No black nurses' lawsuit: Nurse asked not to touch infant

'No black nurses' lawsuit: An black nurse at a hospital in Flint, Mich. filed a lawsuit last month alleging her supervisors bowed to a father's request to have no black nurses take care of his infant. 

By StaffAssociated Press / February 19, 2013

'No black nurses' lawsuit: An African-American nurse filed a lawsuit alleging supervisor-supported discrimination at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich. Here, Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks at a church in Flint Feb. 10 to commemorate Black History Month.

Associated Press/Lauren Justice

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An African-American nurse claims that a Michigan hospital agreed to a man's request that no black nurses care for his newborn.

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Tonya Battle tells the Detroit Free Press she "didn't even know how to react" when she learned about the request from the father in October at Hurley Medical Center in Flint. The Flint Journal reports Ms. Battle sued last month in Genesee Circuit Court.

In a statement Monday, the hospital management said it "does not comment on past or current litigation."

Battle's lawsuit claims a note was posted on an assignment clipboard reading, "No African American nurse to take care of baby." She says that later was removed, but claims black nurses weren't assigned to care for the baby for about a month because of their race.

Battle wants punitive damages.

The Free Press said the lawsuit recounted how the neonatal intensive care nurse was at the infant's bedside when a man came in and she requested to see the hospital-issued identification wrist band given to parents of patients. The man responded that " ... I need to see your supervisor."

A supervising nurse spoke with the father who told him he didn't want African-Americans to care for his child; the supervising nurse, reports the Free Press, also told Battle that he appeared to have a swastika tatoo on his arm.

“What flashed in my mind is ‘What’s next?' A note on the water fountain that says ‘No blacks'? Or a note on the bathroom that says ‘No blacks’?” Battle told the Free Press.

A legal expert told the Free Press that the law involves some tension giving both sides a standing. While patients can choose doctors (women may choose female gynecologists, for example) and what hospital they use, there are also laws prohibiting discrimination, Lance Gable, an associate professor of health law at Wayne State University Law School told the Free Press.

The Flint Journal reports that the Michigan president of Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network plans to speak in front of Hurley Medical Center Feb. 19. 

"There is growing concern around the country about how this could be in 2013," Michigan NAN President Rev. Charles E. Williams II told the Journal. "There will be growing pressure as Hurley continues to be quiet."

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