Detroit hospital housekeepers fired for blowing whistle on unsanitary conditions, lawsuit says

Two women contracted as housekeepers at Detroit's Harper University Hospital and Hutzel Women's Hospital filed a lawsuit June 30, claiming they were fired in retaliation for reporting concerns about what they described as dirty operating rooms and other unsanitary conditions, according to court documents obtained by Becker's.

Denise Bonds and Shenesia Rhodes were contracted by Crothall Healthcare/Compass Group to clean the hospitals, which are part of Detroit Medical Center. Detroit Medical Center is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, and Crothall is a subsidiary of Compass, a food and support services provider. Compass, Crothall, DMC and Tenet are all named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Ms. Bonds and Ms. Rhodes became full-time employees of Crothall and Compass in 2019 and were fired this year, according to court documents. The women, who were also union stewards, allege that before the pandemic, daily cleaning supplies were not available for housekeepers to do their jobs properly and that the situation worsened with time.

"Defendants intentionally kept the cleaning supplies short to make profits even when it meant the hospital became unsanitary and unsafe," the lawsuit said.

The plaintiffs also allege there were unreasonable expectations for housekeepers and that housekeepers were required to do additional work because of a nursing staff shortage.

"Plaintiffs were given five rags to clean the same 28 patient rooms," according to the lawsuit. "Mops went from unlimited … to not enough to do the job properly. Cleaning solutions that were 'hospital-grade' were always out."

Ms. Bonds and Ms. Rhodes allege they complained to supervisors but were intimidated to stop raising concerns.  

The women say they also reported their concerns to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and were fired after doing so, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Tenet declined to comment to the newspaper June 30 about the allegations. Becker's has reached out to Tenet and DMC and will update this article if comments are received.

A Crothall spokesperson told Becker's, "We are aware that a complaint has been filed but have yet to receive a copy. It is our policy to not comment on ongoing litigation."

The plaintiffs seek economic, noneconomic and compensatory damages as well as other damages.

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