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Court Dismisses Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Michigan DCWs

May 27, 2015

An appeals court on May 20 threw out a discrimination lawsuit brought by two Michigan direct-care workers who challenged the decision of their client’s guardian to take them off the case.

The two workers, Tatanisha Smith and Tywana Pittman, had provided care to a man with brain injuries for 3 and 10 years, respectively.

But in March 2012, their employer, Spectrum Health, informed them that they would no longer be working with him.

The lawsuit alleges that a Spectrum manager told Smith and Pittman that the consumer’s guardian had requested that black caregivers no longer work with the consumer, who is white.

Smith and Pittman sued Spectrum in January 2015, saying that they lost wages and suffered harassment and humiliation as a result of the reassignment.

A federal judge in Grand Rapids dismissed the lawsuit shortly after it was filed, saying that the two women had waited too long after the incident to seek damages.

Smith and Pittman appealed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, which concurred with the lower court’s decision. Judge Robert Holmes Bell added that the plaintiffs had also failed to demonstrate a “long-standing…policy of discrimination” at Spectrum.

— by Matthew Ozga

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