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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jackson Park Hospital Sued By EEOC For Race Discrimination And Retaliation

Federal Agency Charged Black Female Employees Were Segregated in Job Assignments

CHICAGO – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a class race discrimination lawsuit in federal district court here on July 14th against Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center. The EEOC charged that the hospital, on Chicago’s South Side, subjected a class of black female employees to different terms and conditions of employment and segregation in job assignments because of their race. The suit also alleged that at least one of the women was demoted in retaliation for opposing and complaining about unlawful employment practices.

John Rowe, the director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, said the agency’s administrative investigation revealed that numerous black female medical technicians at Jackson Park appear to have been required to perform assignments that their male counterparts who were not black were allegedly not required to perform.

Race discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center, N.D. Ill., No. 11 C 04743, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit has been assigned to District Judge Milton Shadur and Magistrate Judge Gilbert. The EEOC’s litigation of the case will be led by Trial Attorney June Wallace Calhoun and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

“There’s a word for assigning work on the basis of race,” said Rowe. “It’s segregation—and it has long been prohibited by federal law.”

EEOC Chicago District Regional Attorney John Hendrickson added, “This case appears to be one of an increasing number which involve retaliation. That’s something we are always on the watch for and always want to challenge. Retaliation damages everyone—individuals, employers, and the public interest—so we are not inclined to let it slide.”

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at



Black institution Accused of Racial Bas — Against Black Workers

July 17, 2011

Jackson Park Hospital on South Stony Island is about the last place job discrimination should be an issue.

A black man, Merritt J. Hasbrouck, is at the helm of the 52-year-old institution.

The vast majority of the hospital’s 560 employees are black, and nearly all of the patients in the 336-bed facility are black, as are the residents in the surrounding area.

When you get right down to it, Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center is not just a hospital. It is a black institution and an anchor on the Far South Side.

But last Friday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class-action race discrimination lawsuit in federal district court against the hospital. The agency alleges the hospital discriminated against black female respiratory therapists.

“We were obviously aware of the community served by the hospital, and the composition of its patients and its staff and recognize that there might be some issues raised because of that,” John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC, told me.

“We felt there was enough evidence here that a lawsuit was appropriate.”

I reached out to officials at Jackson Park Hospital, some of whom I’ve met in the past at social functions.

“No comment,” is all anyone would utter.

I couldn’t really blame them. This is awkward.

According to the lawsuit, black female employees “were subjected to different terms and conditions of employment and segregation in job assignments on the basis of their race and sex.”

When Rosie McGee, the employee named in the class action, complained about the disparate treatment, she was harassed and demoted, the EEOC alleges.

The group that allegedly discriminated against these black women, were Asian-Indian males. The supervisor in the department was also Asian-Indian.

An EEOC investigation that led up to the lawsuit found that while the black female respiratory therapists were required to administer EKGs, none of their male Asian-Indian counterparts were asked to perform this task.

The EEOC makes no allegation about why the Asian-Indian males were not assigned to administer EKGs.

But that is the question.

What is it about EKGs that someone apparently felt black female employees should do them, but Asian-Indian males shouldn’t have to?

Unfortunately, this fight has been brewing for a long time, not necessarily at Jackson Park Hospital, but in the health-care industry.

For instance, I’ve received complaints from black nurses at other hospitals who complain that they are being discriminated against by non-white supervisors.

Hendrickson acknowledges that the Jackson Park Hospital case is very odd.

“You appear to be dealing with discrimination of minorities by other minorities,” he said.

The federal agency is asking that McGee receive back pay, and that the other black female employees be compensated for their emotional pain, humiliation and inconvenience.

The last time I was at Jackson Park Hospital was nearly a dozen years ago. When a relative had reached her bottom, Jackson Park was the only place that had a bed available for detox.

Despite the circumstances, the doctor, nurses, and staff — all of whom were black — treated this patient with an unexpected level of compassion. I left my loved one there grateful that so many good people were using their talents to help patients in this underserved community.

These good people should not have to worry about discrimination in the workplace.

More importantly, this lawsuit shows although the EEOC has been criticized for not doing enough, it is still willing to take on some challenging cases.

That’s why people who believe they have suffered retaliation for speaking out against discrimination in the workplace shouldn’t be afraid to speak out and to seek the agency’s help.

It may seem irrational that black employees who work in a black facility, caring for black people in a black community would have cause to file a racial discrimination suit.

But, racial bias — no matter who is doing it — never makes sense.

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