2 Nurses Sue Brigham And Women's Hospital, Alleging Racial Discrimination

Brigham and Women's Hospital. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Brigham and Women's Hospital. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Two lawsuits filed by Haitian-American nurses who allege they were victims of racial discrimination while working at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital are heading to trial this week, The Boston Globe reported Monday.

Nirva Berthold says in her suit that after nine years of taking care of cancer patients at the prestigious teaching hospital, she applied for a higher-paying job in 2013 as nurse educator in orthopedics. She said she was turned down because she is black.

The other nurse, Gessy Toussaint, said the hospital retaliated against her when she stood up for Berthold in a dispute with a doctor.

Berthold still works at Brigham and Women's. Toussaint stepped down in 2015 after 15 years at the hospital.

Brigham and Women's denies the allegations.

Berthold's said in her suit she was qualified for the job she applied for, but the hospital used false reasons for turning her down. Allison MacLellan, who represents both nurses, said the real reason was her client's race.

The hospital said in court documents that one of the requirements for the job is a master's degree, and Berthold did not have one. Berthold said she was just three weeks away from obtaining her master's.

Toussaint says in her suit that she was punished for defending Berthold in a dispute with a doctor over how to handle a disruptive patient.

Toussaint, who witnessed the argument, said the doctor was verbally abusive toward Berthold.

She alleges in her suit that Brigham and Women's then falsely targeted her for numerous instances of poor patient care.

The hospital responded in court documents that it had legitimate problems with the quality of patient care provided by Toussaint, and she refused to take steps to improve.

A Brigham and Women's spokeswoman said the hospital does not tolerate discrimination, and has partnered with two college nursing programs to increase diversity.

This article was originally published on April 30, 2018.


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