The Attorney General's office reached a settlement with the Betsy Ross Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. After complaints from black nurses, the home will implement a number of anti-discriminatory practices. Our Alana LaFlore tells us how members of the community are reacting to the news.
ROME, N.Y. -- It began when a patient asked not to be seen or treated by black nurses.
The Attorney General's office says the nursing home accommodated the patient's preference by reassigning all African-American nurses and employees to a different unit.
They hung a sign up that ordered "No colored nurses."
"I'm still shocked by the fact that it's occurring in 2014," said Phonon Perrilloux, NAACP Rome Branch President. "That people feel it's necessary to discriminate against their color, their race, how they believe."
Also bothered was Dr. Jan J. DeAmicis, a sociology professor at Utica College.
"Nurses all come in one color," said DeAmicis. "There are no black nurses. There are no white nurses - they're nurses."
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination of employees based on race.
Community members say they believed the days of separate-but-equal were gone.
"Not everyone is going to buy into the fact that they're wrong," said Perrilloux. "They don't want to admit that they're discriminating. They don't want to admit they have an agenda. But if they're faced with it, they need to have an opportunity to change their mind."
Human rights advocates say that progress is a process - not an event. And fighting discrimination has to start at an institutional level.
"You cannot play into the prejudices of people," said DeAmicis. "You just can't do that and surrender the dignity of your professional staff because of the petty prejudice of a patient. So administrators have to take a strong stand and resist that sort of thing."
As part of the settlement with the Attorney General's office, the center will implement new reforms and policies to protect employees from a discriminatory environment.
"We're going to continue to fight to ensure that nobody, no employee is treated differently because of their race," said Kristen Clarke, who investigated the complaints and serves as Chief of Civil Rights Bureau for the Attorney General's office.
To ensure the changes, the settlement requires the nursing home to report to the Attorney General's office for the next three years.
We reached out to the Betsy Ross Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, but officials declined to comment.