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From Racial Slurs to Lynching Jokes, New Lawsuit Details Alleged Racism in Nursing Home

Among the complaints are Black nurses being referred to as 'slaves' at the Alabama facility.

The federal lawsuit filed by current and former Florala Health and Rehabilitation employees also alleges unequal conditions and abusive treatment aimed at Black patients. (Patrick Landmann/Getty Images)

Courtney Love was a few months into her job as a nursing assistant at Florala Health and Rehabilitation in Alabama when it became clear that the racism and abuse ran deeper here than the other facilities she had worked in.

The insults piled on, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week, coming to a head earlier this year when one white co-worker suggested the Black nursing staff were neglecting their responsibilities.

“These Black girls need to service their people like the slaves they are,” the co-worker allegedly said. The head nurse on duty did not intervene during the exchange. It was one of many moments that shocked Love, cluing her in to the severity of the racial tensions at the Covington County nursing home. 

“Love resigned a few days later,” the lawsuit reads, “based on her realization that Florala Rehabilitation was a racially toxic environment that supervisory personnel either condoned or encouraged.”

By then, she had worked in nursing for more than a decade. This environment was too hostile to stay in. 

Love is one of nine former and current Black women who say the facility, which borders Florida and is northeast of Mobile, is home to unrelenting racism, from insults and taunts to retaliation and physical violence, according to the lawsuit. The employees — one registered nurse and eight nursing assistants, were subjected to being called “n****,” “slave girls” and “little Black girls” along with exposure to lynching jokes. The racist remarks continued within earshot of them: 

I’m allergic to Black people. 

Colored people can’t come in my room.

The Black girls scare me.

Blacks are meant to serve.

These comments, among others, created a racially hostile work environment, according to the lawsuit. 

Some of the employees also say that they’ve witnessed unequal conditions and abusive treatment aimed at Black patients, which includes them being left unbathed, without clothing, and sometimes without medication or care they need. They’re asking the court to require the facility to institute policies promoting equal opportunities and treatment of all employees, free of racial discrimination, along with compensation for damages. The facility in Florala is one of over 30 senior assisted living homes across Alabama, Florida, Missouri, and Arkansas owned by NHS Management LLC.

“Neither the values nor the policies of our company would allow or tolerate the conduct that is alleged in this lawsuit,” said Joe Perkins, a spokesperson for the management company, in a call with Capital B. “We take these accusations seriously.”

He added that as soon as the company learned of the allegations about patients, they were reported to state regulators. Soon after, they began an internal investigation. Patient care is the priority, Perkins said. And before the lawsuit, he said, the company had no knowledge of the staff accusations.

The lawsuit says that despite repeated complaints to upper management, little has been done to remedy the abuse, and most of the plaintiffs say they’ve been retaliated against for speaking up. Black employees are quicker to face discipline, write-ups, and threats of termination over issues like bringing a soda can near a workstation or using their phones than white employees, the complaint says. 

One woman requested to be moved to a part-time position due to the pervasiveness of the racism, according to the lawsuit. Her request was approved, then a supervisor stopped scheduling her, effectively ending her shifts. Two others resigned because of the ongoing discrimination. The six others still work at the facility.

“This lawsuit is about asserting their dignity,” said Artur Davis, an attorney representing the nurses. “Their company hasn’t paid much attention to their dignity.”

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