Senior living facility discriminated against worker because she is Black

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced the settlement Tuesday.
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A senior living facility permitted racial harassment and fired an employee because she's Black, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights said Tuesday while announcing a settlement with the facility. 

The human rights department said it has reached a settlement agreement with Edgewood Sartell after it violated Minnesota's civil rights law when it discriminated against Jameisha Cox, a personal care assistant, because of her race. 

“Being belittled on a daily basis because of race is sad a reality for Black people,” Jameisha Cox said in the release. "I was blatantly ignored when I raised concerns about being racially harassed. I was ignored again when I was fired because of my race. All I wanted was my job back and nobody cared at all. Now my former employer is being held responsible and has to change their policies so what happened to me doesn’t happen for the next Black person."

In addition to paying Cox for lost wages and damages, the facility will amend its discrimination and harassment policies to make it clear that policies apply to harassing and discriminatory conduct by employees, residents, guests, visitors, vendors and contractors.

The facility must also inform all employees of the updated policies and provide anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and bias training, according to terms of the settlement. 

What happened?

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, during her time at Edgewood Sartell, Cox was assigned to work with a resident who racially harassed her, made racist and derogatory comments about her race, skin and hair, shouted racial epithets at Cox and attempted to rip off her headscarf. 

When Cox and other employees reported the harassment to Cox's supervisor, the supervisor didn't do anything, the release said. The supervisor also repeatedly denied Cox's requests to work with a different resident. 

In addition to permitting the racial harassment to occur, the senior living facility fired Cox because of her race, the state Department of Human Rights said. The facility falsely claimed that Cox failed to report to work when she followed the company's protocol when she requested and her supervisor approved time off because she was waiting for her next paycheck to get her car fixed – a car she used to get to work. 

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Edgewood Sartell did not fire white employees who had significant attendance issues, the Department of Human Rights said. 

The release notes the facility's executive director never responded to Cox's complaint in response to her termination, and on Nov. 18, 2018, Cox filed a charge of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights alleging discrimination. 

On Dec. 31, 2019, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights determined Edgewood Sartell violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act when it failed to address the racial harassment by the resident, and when it fired Cox because she is Black. 

“Jameisha Cox’s case lays bare yet another example of anti-Black racism,” Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said in the release. “As Minnesota’s civil rights enforcement agency, we continue to work every day to build a state where communities of color and Indigenous communities can thrive by enforcing civil rights law, ending racist practices, and undoing systems that perpetuate racial disparities.”

BMTN has reached out to Edgewood Sartell for comment.

Racial discrimination in Minnesota

The state of Minnesota has one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country thanks to the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in employment, the release said.

However, racial discrimination "consistently one of the largest areas of complaints" the state Department of Human Rights receives. 

"Workplace discrimination is one of the many reasons why Minnesota is home to some of the worst racial disparities in the country," the news release said, noting the gap between Black and white families' incomes is the third-worst in the nation, the American Community Survey found. 

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is the state's civil rights enforcement agency. If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of discrimination or bias call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or submit this online form.

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