A woman who worked as a caregiver at a senior home near St. Cloud was subjected to racial harassment and abuse by a resident at the facility and then was fired because of her race, according to Minnesota’s civil rights enforcement agency.
Jameisha Cox, who is black, alleged that a resident at Edgewood Sartell, an assisted-living facility, made racist epithets at her and tried to rip off her headscarf while she was providing care. When Cox reported the abuse and asked to provide care to a different resident at the facility, her supervisor denied her request and defended the resident’s behavior, according to a legal settlement announced Tuesday by the state Department of Human Rights.
“Throughout [Cox’s] employment, [Edgewood Sartell] regularly assigned her to work with a resident who would make negative and derogatory comments to the charging party about her race, skin and hair,” the agency said in an investigation memorandum.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Edgewood Sartell said the facility denies Cox’s allegations as well as the state’s findings of discrimination, and said it “is committed to equal employment opportunity for all individuals, and a workplace free from unlawful discrimination and harassment.” The facility only agreed to the settlement to minimize time, attorney fees and other costs associated with the dispute, the spokeswoman said.
Cox, who was a personal care assistant at Edgewood, also alleged she was wrongfully terminated in 2018 for missing work shifts, even though she had been approved for time off to get repairs made to the car that she used to get to work. By contrast, Edgewood did not fire white workers who had attendance problems and regularly allowed a white worker to switch residents, according to the settlement.
State investigators found that the racial harassment was so severe that Cox began asking co-workers to accompany her when she entered the resident’s room and that she would cry as a result of the abuse. In one incident, a witness heard the resident say, “Don’t let that [N-word] in here,” when speaking about Cox. When Cox alerted her supervisor to the harassment, the supervisor said the resident was “not used to being around colored people,” and the resident was “just old, it’s how they were raised,” according to the state memorandum.
“I was blatantly ignored when I raised concerns about being racially harassed,” Cox said in a written statement. “I was ignored again when I was fired because of my race. All I wanted was my job back and nobody cared at all.” According to terms of the settlement, Edgewood has agreed to amend its discrimination and harassment policies to make it clear they apply to harassing and discriminatory conduct by employees, residents, guests, visitors, vendors and contractors. The facility has also agreed to provide increased anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for all of its managers and supervisors. In addition, Cox will be reimbursed for lost wages and damages under the settlement.
Racial discrimination in the workplace continues to be one of the top sources of complaints with the Department of Human Rights. They accounted for 21% of all employment-related discrimination charges in the last half of 2019, exceeded only by charges based on a person’s disability, according to a semiannual report by the agency.