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2 former nurses sue Huntington Memorial Hospital alleging racial discrimination

2 former nurses sue Huntington Memorial Hospital alleging racial discrimination
Two former nurses are suing Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena alleging racial discrimination and wrongful termination. (Michael Owen Baker / Associated Press)

Two former labor and delivery nurses at Huntington Memorial Hospital filed wrongful-termination lawsuits this month against the Pasadena hospital alleging they were targeted because of their race and ultimately fired amid widespread discrimination.

Veronica Loving and Martha Beltran say in the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court that the hospital failed to prevent discrimination against black and Latina nurses, who were singled out, given poor performance evaluations and denied promotions.

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In January, 13 nurses in the labor and delivery unit submitted a letter to supervisors to raise concerns about tension among the staff. The lawsuits say the complaints were not investigated.

“We strongly believe that this aggression is racially motivated,” the group wrote. “We don’t think that a small group of nurses like to see women of color in positions of authority. As a group, we have felt discriminated, belittled, insulted and segregated because of our race.”

Huntington Memorial Hospital said in a statement Thursday that it “maintains a strict non-discrimination policy in our hiring and other human resources practices. In accordance with this policy, we treat any discrimination claim seriously. Such claims are fully investigated in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements. As a matter of policy, we do not comment publicly on confidential personnel matters.”

Loving began working in the labor and delivery department as a nurse in 2011 and for years received accolades and satisfactory performance evaluations. That changed when two new supervisors, who are white, were hired to oversee the department in late 2017 and early this year, according to her lawsuit.

Beltran, a charge nurse in the unit who began working at the hospital in 1984, alleges in court filings that she became a target for discrimination in October 2017 when she was told by her new supervisor that a colleague had complained about her. She established that she wasn’t present at work on the date of the allegations.

However, two months later, she was summoned to another meeting regarding additional anonymous complaints.

She told her supervisor that she believed she was being discriminated against. She noted that she was aware of another charge nurse, who is white, who had received a complaint against her and was permitted to address and resolve the conflict. She said she was not given the same opportunity and was fired later that month.

The lawsuit says the unfair treatment of certain employees continued, peaking May 19 when a request from Loving for the hospital to have an extra nurse work in the unit that day was ignored. She wrote in a letter to the chief nursing officer that she had made the request for patient safety.

“Ultimately this is dangerous and directly reflects what we have been trying to explain to you,” she wrote, according to the lawsuit. “Our patients need to come first and this petty retaliatory behavior needs to be stopped immediately.”

Three weeks later, Loving was told she was being fired because of charting errors that occurred May 19, the same day she complained about the nursing shortage.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that Huntington Memorial Hospital has been accused of discrimination.

In June, a woman sued the hospital for discrimination after she said she was denied interviews for a job as a phlebotomist for more than two years because she is black. She said in late 2016 she was offered an interview after she submitted an application under a different name and checked a box saying she was Filipino, according to the filing.

Huntington Memorial Hospital also recently faced scrutiny for allowing Dr. Patrick Sutton to continue practicing amid years of complaints that the prominent Pasadena obstetrician was mistreating patients.

A Times investigation identified more than 20 women who say Sutton mistreated them during his medical care. Their allegations date to 1989, his first year at the hospital, and include unwanted sexual advances, medical incompetence, the maiming of women’s genitals and the preventable death of an infant. Sutton has denied each allegation.

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