Lawsuit alleges disability discrimination at nursing facility
COLDWATER, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A former nurse alleges she was forced out of her job at the Laurels of Coldwater after her supervisors informed her the company would no longer accommodate her disabilities.
Rita Morrissey said she worked at the facility in Coldwater for 16 years.
“I enjoyed working there and I loved taking care of the residents,” she said, referring to her tenure before she says new policies prevented her and others from working.
Morrissey suffers from scoliosis and neuropathy, among other disabilities, and says her doctor required that she work no more than 12 hours each day.
However, Morrissey said eventually her supervisors announced changes, and didn’t mince words.
“The director of nursing said that she would not take people with disabilities,” Morrissey said.
Laurels of Coldwater denied the allegations in a brief statement emailed to the Newschannel 3 I-Team.
“We are aware of the claims made by Rita Morrissey, and deny that she was discriminated against based upon any alleged disabilities,” wrote Associate General Counsel R. Scott Glover.
“The Laurels of Coldwater is an equal opportunity employer, and we greatly appreciate all of our dedicated employees who take such excellent care of our guests. As this matter is currently in litigation, we cannot offer any further comment,” he added.
However, through Morrissey’s lawyer, the I-Team obtained recordings of portions of a meeting that took place at the Laurels of Coldwater, where someone can be heard talking about changes being made to scheduling due to non-work injuries and disabilities.
“If you have an unrelated, non-work injury that you cannot perform for whatever reason, your job description, I cannot accommodate you anymore,” says the person on the tape, who according to Morrissey’s lawyer is a nursing supervisor.
“If it’s not a work related injury I’m unable… I have work with you guys in the past and worked with your limitations and disabilities and it has gotten me in a lot of trouble,” the voice continues.
Morrissey says the recordings also show that she and other nurses with various disabilities were encouraged to get those work restrictions lifted by their doctors, adding that without those restrictions lifted, she and others would not be allowed to work.
“This is a nursing home in the community, and we’re saying, ‘bring your loved ones here with disabilities and we’ll take care of you,’ but then you’re saying, ‘none of your staff can have disabilities,’” she added.
Morrissey said, ultimately, asking staff to lift work restrictions puts the patients and residents at risk as well.
“It’s not safe, you get into working a double shift, and we’re making important decisions and passing medications that could be harmful to the patient by working long hours like that,” she said.
According to the lawsuit filed in District Court, Morrissey is seeking compensatory damages, but she also says she wants to send a message to others.
“It’s not just me, they’ve done it to others,” she said, referring to Laurels of Coldwater. “It’s illegal what they’re doing.”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission looked over Morrissey’s accusations, and according to paperwork, EEOC has granted her permission to file with lawsuit alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.