2 nurses allege race a factor in firing from Brigham and Women's

Back-to-back trials will begin this week in Boston for two Haitian-American nurses who filed lawsuits against Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital in 2014, claiming they were racially discriminated against by the hospital, according to The Boston Globe.

Nirva Berthold, MSN, RN, and Gessy Toussaint, RN, filed separate lawsuits against the hospital and three managers in 2014.

According to court documents obtained by The Boston Globe, Ms. Berthold had worked at the hospital for nine years before deciding to apply for a higher position. However, Brigham and Women's declined to promote her because she is black, Ms. Berthold alleged.

After losing out on the position, Ms. Berthold was hired as a nurse educator at Boston-based Simmons College. However, she needed approval from Brigham and Women's to train student nurses at the hospital, a key part of her new position. Ms. Berthold's attorney told The Boston Globe the hospital declined to provide permission — a move her lawyers argued was also discriminatory. Ms. Berthold also alleged the hospital and select managers made defamatory statements about her to Simmons College, the report states.

Brigham and Women's denied Ms. Berthold's allegations, stating officials turned her down for the position because she did not have a master's degree at the time, though she only had three more weeks of graduate school to obtain the degree, according to court documents. Lawyers representing the hospital told the publication officials declined to approve Ms. Berthold's credentials to train nurses because of two seperate complaints officials received accusing her of unprofessional conduct, one of which was from a physician at the hospital.

Ms. Toussaint became involved in the incident after witnessing the interaction between Ms. Berthold and the physician that led to the complaint. Ms. Toussaint allegedly stuck up for Ms. Berthold and, as a result, was subjected to discriminatory action by Brigham and Women's officials, according to Ms. Toussaint's complaint. In court documents, the hospital claimed it had legitimate problems with Ms. Toussaint's quality of care. Ms. Toussaint resigned from Brigham and Women's in 2015, The Boston Globe reports.

While none of the parties involved in the case would comment to the publication, a Brigham and Women's spokesperson told The Boston Globe the hospital does not tolerate discrimination and noted seven of 89 nurse managers (8 percent) at the hospital are black, while 180 of 3,250 staff nurses (5.5 percent) are black.

The spokesperson also said Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD, "has been actively meeting with nurses, residents, faculty and other minority staff to identify and mitigate any overt and implicit bias at the individual and structural level," according to the report.

To access The Boston Globe report, click here.

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