Is It 2013 Or 1913? African American Nurse Sues Michigan Hospital After Being Banned From Caring For A Caucasian Newborn

February 18, 2013  |  

Source: Shutterstock

It’s quite ironic that as our country celebrates Black History Month, we have some Americans who are still walking around as if Jim Crow laws are still being enforced. An African American nurse by the name of Tonya Battle is suing Hurley Medical Center in Michigan after the hospital banned her from taking care of a Caucasian newborn that was being kept in their intensive care unit, reports the Huffington Post.

According to the legal complaint acquired by WNEM TV 5, the father of the infant flashed Battle’s supervisor “a swastika of some kind” and requested that no Black personnel be included in the care of his baby. The supervisor is said to have agreed to and granted the request made by the newborn’s father and informed Battle that she was being removed from the chid’s case. Court documents also reveal that Battle’s supervisor placed a note on the infant’s file that read:

“No African American nurse to take care of baby.”

While reports suggest that the hospital’s attorneys eventually rejected and overturned the supervisor’s decision, the barring of Black nurses from taking care of the newborn was said to have been carried out for about a month. Battle is now suing the hospital for emotional stress, in addition to the damage that the lawsuit has done to her reputation as a medical professional.

She is said to have also filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

One would think that something as minuscule as skin color would be irrelevant when it comes to the health of a sick newborn, but apparently some are still caught up in a web of ignorance. It’s difficult to even imagine how humiliating this entire experience has been for Tonya Battle.

What do you think of the hospital’s decision to honor the father’s request of  keeping African American staff members from caring for his baby?


Jazmine Denise is a news writer for Madame Noire. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenise.

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN

  • She is well within her rights to sue, and I hope she wins. I blame the hospital for going along with that request. They should have told the man that if that’s the way he felt, he should go to another hospital. I understand that they may have been scared, but wrong is wrong, and they should have stood up. With such a father, I would even recommend looking into removing that baby from the home. He/she won’t have much of a chance in an atmosphere like that.

  • klassyRN

    I’ve been asked to change pt’s with another nurse bc the family would
    prefer that another nurse(race) care for the pt… I dont become
    offended simply bc they did me a favor… I wouldnt have to defend
    myself against constant scrutiny…. but on the other hand when a
    facility complies with said demand… it can be misconstrued as
    discrimination… its a twofold decision…. we would have to be aware
    of every dynamic and resource in the works at the time of the request…

    what emotional damage am I conceding too by not caring for person(s)
    who clearly abhors me simply bc of my skin… am I offended… NEVER…
    its protection for me.. When I’ved filled out an application in past
    times there is often one question that is asked and it reads as such…
    “Are there any reason that would keep your from being able to care for a
    patient to to the best of your ability or have a belief that would keep
    you from performing your duties as a nurse?” My reply is “YES”…. I
    dont believe I can fulfill my role as a nurse when dealing with
    pedophiles or rapist…. I’m honest they asked and I laid it out there..
    and they can make their decision from that juncture…. even in my
    profession its MY limitation… In all other cases I look beyond the
    person and apply my knowledge and skill to the task at hand.. the rest
    is irrelevant… Racial issues will always play a role in society but
    not every decision is racist or racial.. some decisions are simply
    protection.. I’ve re-assigned nurses in the middle of shift or taken the
    pt myself bc the pt/fam was difficult…. I’ve double checked
    scheduling carefully and considered the nurse and the personality of the
    pt/fam (if I know they are difficult and reassign) was that
    discrimination on my part.. No.. its protection for my nurses and one
    less complaint to administration…. These are incidences the average
    person has no knowledge of but circumstances that have to be dealt with
    on a day to day basis… But do I consider every decision that I make
    regarding race as discrimination or is it simply whats in the best
    interest of all parties considered…. believe me when I say… When
    that heart attack…CVA or STEMI is occurring you wont consider the
    color of my skin but you will consider how I saved your life…

  • kierah

    For those of you who still think the nurse shouldn’t sue. As a patient, The employer NEVER should have gone along with that request. It was not a medically based decision and discriminated against Black nurses. This interfered with their livelihood. It could have placed them in the horrible position of actually hesitating before helping a sick child. Trust and believe had something happened to that child on their watch those Black nurses would have been held liable – note or no note in the file.

    It’s discrimination and it’s wrong.

  • Pingback: Is It 2013 Or 1913? African American Nurse Sues Michigan Hospital After Being Banned From Caring For A Caucasian Newborn | Black News Zone()

  • Tamz

    This reminds me of the episode of “The Jefferson’s” where some guy was had some type of respiratory distress and George saved his life. The ambulance personnel told him that George was the one that saved his life and the man said “You should have let me die”. I’m sorry, but that man and his family would have been directed to another hospital, I don’t deal with intolerance.

    • me

      I had the same thought!

  • jabbers

    Whatever happened to the rule that the customer is always right? I’m not saying its right, but when you have a sick baby in the hospital it is rather difficult to take the infant to another hospital just because, of ignorant parents. However, that is no reason to sue the hospital for trying to make the baby and the parents more comfortable. This lawsuit should be thrown out of court.

    The nurse probably wants an early retirement and thinks this is the way to get some big bucks.

    Whatever happened to common sense? People should stop being so thin skinned..

  • zina

    They should have denied him because he is controlling their manpower and shifts. What if you tried to appease him but the white nurse calls off. .. Does the baby get denied care?

  • Man is it me or have I been seeing racist in the top stories… First, Drunk white man slaps a black baby Second, This story…..what is going on with racism..racism needs to be demolish it’s been going on a little to long now.

  • ijs

    If he’s willing to let his child die I would be too. And get a half a mil while doing it.

  • wowwwwwwwwwwww that’s all I can say

  • BarBQ

    Another article said the nurse had worked there 25 years and while it’s fine for the man to voice his preference and for individual nurses to agree, it’s another thing if your employer complies and institutes a policy based on this type of request. Better to nip it in the bud. This time it’s don’t care for my baby, next time it’s I prefer not to hire AA nurses by someone who matters.

  • ijs

    I don’t see the big deal and she SHOULD NOT SUE! She kept her job but with one less patient. My mother was on ccu and I requested that certain nurses not care for her, it was based on theory attitudes!

    • ijs


    • OK,. Let me help your clouded vision. Please make sure you walk through the back door of every restaurant, sit at the back of the bus, & get up out of your seat when a white person comes by If they need a seat on the bus or train… DO YOU KNOW WHAT A NAZI SWASTIKA REPRESENTS, WHAT THESE PEOPLE BELIEVE??!!

      • jabbers

        Esther… You are sick in the head. This is nothing compared to how it was back then, and you damn sure know it. No matter how you slice it, the father should have the right to choose his baby’s nurses. He is paying the bill, not the nurse. She is only out for the money.

    • Tasha

      Really u don’t see a big r u white or black? If ur white then I can c why u dont c the big deal now if ur black I just feel sorry for u bc u r truly lost..smh

    • as an R.N. you are the worst kind of family member to have to deal with, ijs. Theory attitudes? What do you mean by that?

    • kierah

      You did not base your decision on RACE which is a protected group. People with differing bedside manners is not a protected group like race, religion, or sexual orientation.

  • Natasha T

    If this baby was born with a bad heart and there’s a black cardiologist around, I’ll bet this racist scum would let his baby die instead. I hope this nurses wins and buys the hospital.

    • That’s what racists are; irrational, illogical people so consumed by their own hate that they can’t make sense. It’s disgusting.

  • Nikki

    I don’t think a law suit is necessary. She still has her job, things could have been worse.

    This has happened to my mom. She told the patient that she will look for a white nurse, and she won’t feel bad if they die while waiting for one.

    • Your Mom is of a different generation & may have acquired the habits that had to be used just to survive. In this month used to commemorate people who DIED to give us equality, let us not insult their memory. People sue for sexual harassment etc, this is blatant discrimination, not even subtle, it went on for a whole month.

    • kierah

      This did not happen to your mom. In your mom’s care, the patient made a request and your mom CHOSE to comply. In this situation, the HOSPITAL emended their own policies to comply with discrimination.

  • Charla

    Obviously, his child was in a serious condition to be hospitalized for so long but he’s worried about the race of a nurse? The hospital should have told him if that’s how he feels, feel free to take your child to another hospital or even save the baby’s life himself!

  • chanela

    smh i hate people. if you watch the show ‘the walking dead’, you would see that even if the world ended and there was a crisis that required everybody to band together and help each other out, there are STILL freakin racist bastards around. smh i guess it really will never end.

    • Right, that’s one more of things I like about The Walking Dead, it seems racism has been eradicated! Not one of the survivors ever mentions RACE.. But this day and age, an INFANT cannot be treated by woman whose job it is to take care BABIES!

      • ijs

        There are at least two characters on The Walking Dead whose characters are built around them being racist.

        • Who Merle, and his brother Daryl? I was leaning more towards Rick, and the others in his group at the prison. I didn’t include Daryl b/c I felt I kinda made up for his earlier behavior because he’s effin AWESOME, and has saved/protected everyone (including T-dog) at least once. Merle wasn’t in my train of thought when I said what I said, because he isn’t the majority in his way of thinking. I should have been more specific, as I was thinking of the majority of the survivors…

        • chanela

          yeah this is what i was talking about.

          i don’t know where cute n creepy got it from that i was saying that racism didn’t exist. the whole point of my comment was to say that in the walking dead there are STILL racist people around.. even when nobody else is in the damn world.

          merle said in the second episode “i just don’t think it’s right for my kind and your kind to live around each other” even in a damn ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! smh it will never end.

  • IllyPhilly

    As a medic in Iraq I ran into this issue all through training until ish hit the fan then it was, “Help me, please.” Sad, but not uncommon.

    • How do you handle something like that MENTALLY? Do you get angry, did you say something? I have never experienced this, as I’m not in a field where I have to help people, yet… I’m a computer science major, and hopefully, all the help I’ll have to administer, is to a COMPUTER..

      • IllyPhilly

        For me, I just know when it’s all said and done, I didn’t let that idiot make me lose my cool and possibly life under the circumstances and I saved a life.

  • Candacey Doris

    This stinks that she felt so bad over it but i’m wondering why she felt that it was such a slight against her personally. This racist father didn’t want ANY black person looking after his child and probably only caved because it was simpler to do so. I would have just gone on with my life. It’s not like she was fired or lost hours because of him.

    • IllyPhilly


      • U agree with that ? Now it’s personal

        • jabbers

          What’s personal about it? Everyone should have the right to the refuse treatment, or request a different doctor or nurse or eye doctor or surgeon, if you are the one paying the damn bill..

          • kierah

            You do have the right – as a PATIENT. That’s why the lawsuit is against the hospital. As the employer, they can not make assignments based on race. By inserting that notice in the patient file, they are admitting that they are complying with discrimination.

    • R u living in 1913 ???

    • `Are you serious, this woman is a healthcare professional

      • jabbers

        And being a healthcare professional she should be able to take something like this in stride, and go on to the next patient, without trying to make money off of it..

      • Candacey Doris

        Having been one myself, i know that sometimes patients or their families have preferences. Working in a nursing home i and others have had some racist old people request others because we are black. Hispanic nurses, cna’s and doctors get it too. I’ve never seen anyone sue or throw a fit over it. We accept it and move on. Ultimately it does not impact our life.