Lawsuit alleges Black worker at UNC Health Care hospital faced hostile environment


UNC Health Care's Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville, N.C., faces a federal discrimination lawsuit alleging the facility created a racially hostile work environment for a Black woman, WLOS reported.  

The lawsuit, published by the news station, was filed by former employee Indian Jackson, and the allegations within it are disputed by the hospital.  

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Jackson began working in the hospital's mail room in 2016, and the hospital "intentionally made it difficult for [her] to perform her duties and responsibilities." For example, Ms. Jackson said she managed the mailroom for about two years before she had a key to be able to access it. She claims it also took about two years before she received a password to accounts, such as a bank account that was necessary to do her job.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Ms. Jackson was forced to take lunch breaks inside her office, unlike her colleagues who are not Black, and that nothing was done after she reported an issue with colleagues commenting when she wore her hair in a natural style. Ms. Jackson also said there were two instances when she was doing her job as a mailroom manager, and a supervisor told her she would "get 50 lashes" if she did not perform her duties a certain way. She claims her supervisor then retaliated against her after she reported the comment to leadership.

Most recently, several white employees at the hospital made racially hostile comments in response to a video of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died Memorial Day in the custody of Minneapolis police, Ms. Jackson said.  

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Jackson was forced to take an extended leave of absence in June for her physical, mental and emotional health, and after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, was forced to constructively terminate on Oct. 10. 

The complaint, filed in state court in November and moved to federal court in Asheville, N.C., on Jan. 12, claims the hospital violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the state's Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, Pardee said it "vigorously disputes the allegations contained in the complaints filed by Ms. Jackson." The hospital also pointed to a charge of discrimination Ms. Jackson filed in September with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which led to an EEOC probe that resulted in a finding of "no cause."  

"As an organization we proactively uphold and support an inclusive work environment. Our anti-discrimination policies are in place to protect and address any complaints or allegations of this nature. Moreover, we take any complaints or allegations very seriously," Pardee's statement says. 

The hospital added: "Diversity has long been a commitment of Pardee Hospital. Working with UNC Health, Pardee began building on this long-standing commitment by founding a formalized process to support diversity, equity and inclusion in January 2019 and began incorporating efforts into our organizational culture within a few months after that. To make this work not only substantive, but sustainable within our organization, Pardee actively invited and recruited 40 members throughout our organization — including Ms. Jackson — to take part and lead these efforts, creating a dedicated DEI team."  

The hospital acknowledged that the work is ongoing and will continue to be improved, but said it is proud of efforts up to this point. 

Read the full lawsuit here


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