Zeeland rehab center denies racial discrimination claims


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Zeeland rehabilitation center is denying allegations it racially discriminated against six certified nursing assistants now suing the group for lost wages and damages.

In a response filed with the court Monday, Providence Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center denied nearly all the claims made by the group of certified nursing assistants.

The federal lawsuit filed by the CNAs on April 11 said that while they were working at Providence Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center over the past several years, some patients said they didn’t want any African-Americans providing their care and the center accommodated those requests.

>>PDF: Providence Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center’s response to lawsuit

The lawsuit says that in those situations, the plaintiffs were replaced with white nurses. In some cases when they cared for the patients, the suit claims, the patients called them racist names.

In its response, Providence said some of the CNAs submitted a written complaint about alleged racial discrimination and harassment by center residents around Jan. 5.  The rehab center also confirmed one CNA complained about being called a racial epithet by a resident, but Providence said that resident is cognitively impaired.

The rehab center denied allegations that some patients said they didn’t want African-Americans caring for them, and denied that it switched staffing based on race to comply to such requests. Providence also said the CNAs did not repeatedly complain about race discrimination and harassment, and were not subjected to workplace retaliation for complaining.

The Zeeland rehab center also took exception to claims it falsely accused two of the CNAs of abusing residents.  Providence said it reported an “aggressive and loud outburst in a common area near residents” by one of the CNAs to authorities, and the second nursing assistant was allowed to return to  work and given back pay when an investigation cleared her of any wrongdoing.

Providence is asking the judge to dismiss the case and not allow the group to refile its lawsuit. The rehab center is also asking the judge to consider ordering the plaintiffs to reimburse it for legal fees, as deemed appropriate.

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