Employees file lawsuit against Florala funeral home over claims of racial discrimination

Published 1:12 pm Friday, July 28, 2023

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A Florala nursing home is facing a lawsuit filed by former black employees who claim they faced racial discrimination from coworkers and residents of the facility.

According to the lawsuit, the black employees were regularly referred to by racial slurs by other staff members at Florala Health and Rehabilitation. The suit was filed by one registered nurse, Cassandra Westry, and eight certified nursing assistants, Shekeya Thomas, Angelia Williams, Kierra Blue, Keonna Crittenden, Chantel Mayes, Melissa Hobdy, Courtney Love,  and Michele Carswell. The lawsuit describes the assisted living facility as a “racially hostile” and “retaliatory hostile” work environment that violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

The group is being represented by attorneys Artur Davis and Brian Noble who said the women were subjected to numerous racist remarks from residents and that white staff members ignored or downplayed the racial hostility and that management did not take appropriate action.

The suit also states that there were instances of physical abuse with one coworker grabbing a black employee by the hair and another being assaulted with a makeshift knife.

The lawsuit also states that black residents faced discriminatory actions. “Compounding the unequal treatment of black employees based on race, some plaintiffs have witnessed abusive and unequal conditions directed at black patients at Florala Rehabilitation, some of whom are left to live in squalid and substandard conditions,” the lawsuit states.

The suit claims that an African American patient was left naked on the floor for several hours by white employees, and when one of the plaintiffs filed a formal complaint on behalf of the patient, she faced retaliation by having her schedule changed, interfering with her children’s school transport schedule.

Other plaintiffs said they faced retaliatory action when they reported discrimination with one allegedly being fired, according to the lawsuit.

Florala Health and Rehabilitation is owned by NHS Management, LLC, which operates facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Missouri. The plaintiffs said multiple written complaints about racism at the facility were sent to NHS Management, but that those incidents were not investigated.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, it was filed in federal court because Alabama is one of five states that does not have a civil rights law and also lacks other laws aimed at protecting employees in the workplace.

The plaintiffs are requesting a jury trial.