A Haitian nurse has filed a lawsuit against a New York hospital for discrimination, claiming she was fired after complaining that several white staffers discriminated against her, minority patients and their families and that a co-worker mocked her with a voodoo doll because of her nationality.
Diana St Gerard, 64, who worked in the mental health unit at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre in Long Island, a New York City suburb, said in the lawsuit that she was also mocked by colleagues who said her Haitian accent was “irritating”.
According to the suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, St Gerard said co-workers complained that the goat meat and Haitian food she brought to work was too spicy and stank up the lunchroom, and that colleagues repeatedly asked her whether she practiced “black magic” or voodoo.
In addition, the lawsuit claims that a nurse told St. Gerard that she looked like a voodoo doll and wondered why she had light-colored skin since she came from a country of “dark-skinned people”.
St Gerard claimed in the lawsuit that the hospital’s management took no action, not even after a nurse brought to the mental health unit a black baby doll she had purchased at a flea market and began waving it around, saying the doll “looked just like (St Gerard), the doll had the same evil eyes as her and the only difference was that she didn’t have a needle in the middle of her chest”.
“I was told that I looked like a voodoo doll in front of many staff members,” St Gerard told the New York Daily News, adding “I was mortified, and I complained about the voodoo doll comments to Mercy’s nurse manager, who blew it off as a joke”.
St Gerard’s lawsuit also claimed that Haitian patients who refused to take their medication were also referred to as “being into voodoo”.
The nurse denies the hospital’s claim that she had “anger issues” and was fired on June 7, 2012 for failing to complete tasks.
“Diana St Gerard loved being a nurse, and she dedicated her life to helping those in need,” said her lawyer, Megan Goddard.
“Sadly, standing up against Mercy’s discrimination of both minority patients and minority employees ultimately cost her the career she loved,” she added.
The hospital declined to comment on the lawsuit.