NEWS
September 14, 2022

EEOC Sues VT Nursing Home Over Racial Harassment Claims

EEOC Sues VT Nursing Home Over Racial Harassment Claims

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a federal lawsuit this past week against Elderwood at Burlington, a long-term care facility in Burlington, Vermont for violating federal law. According to the lawsuit, “Black nurses and nurse assistants to be subjected to ongoing and egregious racial harassment.”

The EEOC lawsuit claims that Elderwood, one of the largest nursing homes in Vermont, is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that harassment is a form of employment discrimination. Race harassment falls under protection in the Act.

The lawsuit claims that, starting in 2020, specific white patients directed offensive racial slurs at Elderwood’s Black nurses and nurse assistants, including “n----r”, “coon”, “monkey” and “Black b-----s.” Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that “One patient repeatedly told Black employees to “go back to Africa”; followed Black employees throughout the facility so as to racially berate them; and physically assaulted Black employees because of their race.”

The EEOC press release states that “Federal law requires that an employer take prompt and effective remedial action to prevent race harassment of its employees in the workplace, including where the harassers are patients or customers,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Here, Black employees were subjected to ongoing racial abuse for months on end without any effective response by Elderwood. Such misconduct is clearly unlawful, and the EEOC is here to stop it.”

The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages for the named employees as well as preventing future racial harassment.

Timothy Riera, acting director of the New York District Office, added, “Racial harass­ment in the workplace is never acceptable, no matter who engages in the harassment. This har­assment was especially grotesque, and should have been addressed quickly but was allowed to continue. An employer cannot ignore egregious racial harassment simply because the harassers are long-term care facility residents.”

A spokesman for the care home, Charles Hayes, said in a statement that the facility is aware of the EEOC lawsuit and is unable to comment on the ongoing litigation. Hayes added, “We will vigorously defend our efforts to protect our staff from racial harassment.”

According to the website, Elderwood is a 150-bed nursing home that offers skilled nursing, long-term care, and subacute rehab services. They provide orthopedic, cardiac, and post-surgical rehab programs including PT, OT, and speech therapy. 

Nurse.org has reached out to Elderwood via email and has not received a reply at time of publication.