Nurses Continue to Experience Discrimination in the Workplace - When to Seek Legal Help

If you or someone you know has been discriminated against while on the job, contact an employment lawyer.

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Nurses play an important role in delivering healthcare to patients. It is the nurse who tends to a patient first before seeing a doctor. It is the nurse who answers many of the questions for you and your loved ones. It is the nurse who assists a doctor in surgery or non-invasive procedures. Simply put, we need nurses to have a functioning healthcare system. Nurses must also be able to work in an environment free from discrimination, as they will not be able to do their jobs as best they can if they are constantly confronted with workplace discrimination.

Types of Discrimination Nurses Continue to Face

Discrimination is widespread throughout society, but nurses tend to experience particular discrimination that may not be as prevalent in other professions. Many nurses have reported the following types of discrimination in the workplace:

✔️ Race - Even though we have come a long way, racial discrimination is still a big problem. Many nurses do not receive pay raises or promotions due to their race. Many nurses are not receiving equal pay because of their race.

✔️ Age - It is important to understand that The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination against people who are 40 years old or older.

✔️ Gender - Many people are accustomed to seeing female nurses more so than male nurses. Both female and male nurses may experience discrimination based on their gender, but because there are more female nurses than male nurses, some male nurses experience discrimination for simply being a male nurse, taking the position that only females should be nurses.

✔️ Sexual Orientation - While sexual orientation should never be an issue in the workplace, many nurses suffer from discrimination and harassment for having certain lifestyle choices that have absolutely nothing to do with their jobs as nurses, including marital or partnership status. It is illegal in New York to discriminate against a person in compensation, conditions or privileges of employment because of their marital status or because of a domestic partnership.

✔️ Religious discrimination - Unfortunately, nurses have also reporting religious discrimination, which is when a person is being treated unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, but also others who have other sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

✔️ Demeaning Behavior - In addition to being discriminated against for race, gender, and sexual and religious discrimination, nurses may generally be seen as submissive assistants who have no other purpose aside from following a doctor's orders or instructions. This prevents or at least minimizes a nurse's ability to have a leadership role in the workplace.

There are countless ways in which nurses may suffer from workplace discrimination. Acts of discrimination against nurses may be both isolated and systematic, meaning that discrimination can be widespread. Systemic discrimination against nurses has made it difficult for the profession to evolve. As such, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done to change the culture of nursing and to promote a healthy and safe workplace environment.

How an Attorney Can Help

Workplace discrimination can make it very difficult for you to do the job you love. A lawyer can help with your employment law claim. If you or someone you know has suffered from any form of harassment or discrimination while on the job, do not hesitate to speak with a legal professional as soon as possible. An experienced attorney will be able to review your situation, determine if your rights have been violated, and provide you with the guidance you need to make an informed decision moving forward.

Richard Jaffe is an employment discrimination attorney in Long Island, NY. In the spare time he volunteers as a Firefighter and Medic (AEMT-CC) for the Jericho Fire Department and Brentwood Legion Ambulance.

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Nurse Beth, MSN

158 Articles; 2,832 Posts

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development, Freelance Writer. Has 30 years experience.

Thanks for sharing! I'm so excited to see an attorney here. I have a hunch many of us do not understand our rights in the workplace.

gracie65

11 Posts

In my previous "life" before nursing, I worked for our state's attorney's association. Just a BIG hint to any nurses who are experiencing this. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!!! Copy documents, warnings, notes, etc. of any sort that may help your case. Even document any praise you may get from other sources (volunteer work, patient comments, etc.). Also keep a daily journal of your experiences, even if you had a "good" day and nothing negative happened. This will take you MILES ahead of your defendant if you get that far. Nothing beats good documentation!

Yes, I think this is important with all of the changes that have been happening in the workplace. What if an older nurse can't keep up with the increase in patient load or tasks? Could there be a wrongful termination suit if she or he were fired? Now that hospitals are short staffing on purpose and placing more tasks on the nurse, this has become a reality.

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 46 years experience.

OP: Do you have sources for your assertions? Because a blanket statements about discriminatory activity without any real evidence are not very compelling.

KatieMI, BSN, MSN, RN

1 Article; 2,674 Posts

Specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine. Has 10 years experience.

Dear OP:

can you produce ONE example of a nurse successfully suing current or former employer and winning the case which included discrimination charges?

(please do not mention the famous case of Tagalog-speaking nurses. It was a group of employees, not a single one).

From my own experience, only one thing a lawyer definitely can help in such situation is to part the nurse with his or her money. Any other result is much less possible.

It is a hypothetical scenario and question. As for the staffing assertion:

"The past decade has been a turbulent time for US hospitals and practicing nurses. News media have trumpeted urgent concerns about hospital understaffing and a growing hospital nurse shortage.1- 3 Nurses nationwide consistently report that hospital nurse staffing levels are inadequate to provide safe and effective care.4- 6 Physicians agree, citing inadequate nurse staffing as a major impediment to the provision of high-quality hospital care.7 The shortage of hospital nurses may be linked to unrealistic nurse workloads.8 Forty percent of hospital nurses have burnout levels that exceed the norms for health care workers.4 Job dissatisfaction among hospital nurses is 4 times greater than the average for all US workers, and 1 in 5 hospital nurses report that they intend to leave their current jobs within a year.4"

Aiken LH, Clarke SP, Sloane DM, Sochalski J, Silber JH. Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction. JAMA. 2002;288(16):1987-1993.

I don't feel like using APA on my holiday weekend, Dr. Meanmaryjean. :)

RiskManager

1 Article; 615 Posts

Specializes in Healthcare risk management and liability.

I work on the defense side of medical malpractice cases. Most of my plaintiff counsel colleagues who do primarily medmal won't take a case on contingency unless the potential damages are upwards of $250,000 and the typical contingency fee is 40/50% (40% if the case is settled prior to trial, arbitration or mediation; and 50% if it goes to trial, arbitration or mediation resulting in an award). What are the typical damage figures and contingency in an employee discrimination case before plaintiff counsel decides to take the case?

PS: and before anyone comments on those contingency fees, remember that defense counsel get paid win or lose, and I typically pay $ 400 or so per hour for a partner at a Seattle medmal defense firm. Plaintiff counsel on contingency get paid only if they win.

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 46 years experience.
It is a hypothetical scenario and question. As for the staffing assertion:

"The past decade has been a turbulent time for US hospitals and practicing nurses. News media have trumpeted urgent concerns about hospital understaffing and a growing hospital nurse shortage.1- 3 Nurses nationwide consistently report that hospital nurse staffing levels are inadequate to provide safe and effective care.4- 6 Physicians agree, citing inadequate nurse staffing as a major impediment to the provision of high-quality hospital care.7 The shortage of hospital nurses may be linked to unrealistic nurse workloads.8 Forty percent of hospital nurses have burnout levels that exceed the norms for health care workers.4 Job dissatisfaction among hospital nurses is 4 times greater than the average for all US workers, and 1 in 5 hospital nurses report that they intend to leave their current jobs within a year.4"

Aiken LH, Clarke SP, Sloane DM, Sochalski J, Silber JH. Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction. JAMA. 2002;288(16):1987-1993.

I don't feel like using APA on my holiday weekend, Dr. Meanmaryjean. :)

I directed my post to the Original Poster (OP) -not to you.

KatieMI, BSN, MSN, RN

1 Article; 2,674 Posts

Specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine. Has 10 years experience.
I work on the defense side of medical malpractice cases. Most of my plaintiff counsel colleagues who do primarily medmal won't take a case on contingency unless the potential damages are upwards of $250,000 and the typical contingency fee is 40/50% (40% if the case is settled prior to trial, arbitration or mediation; and 50% if it goes to trial, arbitration or mediation resulting in an award). What are the typical damage figures and contingency in an employee discrimination case before plaintiff counsel decides to take the case?

PS: and before anyone comments on those contingency fees, remember that defense counsel get paid win or lose, and I typically pay $ 400 or so per hour for a partner at a Seattle medmal defense firm. Plaintiff counsel on contingency get paid only if they win.

Precisely what I was told. Apparently, stress-related CMP, PTSD and FBM are not enough for $250.000 in potential damages. Especially because none of above can be tentatively proven to be directly caused by extreme stress caused, in turn, by hazing and discrimination.

When one of my patients coded some time ago, a CRNA broke one of his teeth while intubating. The wife sued before he was even out of ICU. I wonder how she could do it because the guy was on PEG tubefeed to begin with and so had no use of his teeth anyway.

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

142 Articles; 9,979 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience.

I noticed a glaring omission in the post. What about nurses who are discriminated against because of disability? Whose employers decide they "can't" make reasonable accommodations and let them go?

Jolie, BSN

6,375 Posts

Specializes in Maternal - Child Health. Has 37 years experience.
I noticed a glaring omission in the post. What about nurses who are discriminated against because of disability? Whose employers decide they "can't" make reasonable accommodations and let them go?

My guess is there is not enough money in those cases either.