We recently came across a ruling by a federal trial court that serves as a reminder that, in some situations, an employer can be held liable for acquiescing to a customer’s race-based request in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII).

In Williams v. Beaumont Health System, the plaintiff was a registered nurse caring for a female patient when she overheard the patient call her a “black bitch.” Williams reported the patient’s statement to her supervisor, who was advised by the patient that she did not want a black nurse taking care of her. The supervisor acquiesced to the patient’s request and removed Williams from caring for the patient, replacing her with a white nurse.

Williams subsequently filed a Title VII lawsuit alleging that the hospital had engaged in unlawful race discrimination when it removed her from caring for the patient because of the patient’s race-based request. In sending the case to a jury, the court rejected the hospital’s argument that the plaintiff could not impute the patient’s statement to the hospital, finding that although the patient was the one who made the discriminatory statement, the hospital’s decision to remove Williams was unlawfully motivated by the patient’s race-based request.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.