Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (7)6 Jun 99

Quick Summary: A nurse can sue for reverse discrimination in employment if the nurse can prove that race was a factor in the employment decision being challenged.

   A nurse’s subjective belief he or she was passed over on the basis of race is not enough, without proof of discriminatory intent.

   In this case the minority candidate was more qualified for the position.  UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS, FIFTH CIRCUIT, 1999.

   The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has extended to nurses the right to sue for so-called reverse discrimination.

   The court ruled in general terms that a white nurse passed over in favor of a minority candidate can sue for reverse discrimination, if the white nurse can prove that race was a factor in the employer’s decision.

   In this case, however, the hospital documented its review of both candidates’ qualifications. The documentation contained reasons for concluding the minority candidate’s qualifications were superior. The court agreed with the employer that the minority nurse was more qualified.

   In its defense the hospital relied on the minority nurse’s superior qualifications as a non-discriminatory explanation for its actions. The white nurse failed to convince the court there was a hidden reverse-discriminatory agenda.

   The white nurse genuinely believed she was passed over for promotion from staff nurse to supervisor because the hospital arbitrarily wished the position to go to a minority candidate. However, according to the court, a subjective belief one is a victim of reverse discrimination is not enough.

   The white nurse also had affidavits from other employees who believed reverse discrimination was going on, but the court said none of them had any direct knowledge of the hospital’s motivations behind its personnel decisions. Lawrence v. University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 163 F. 3d 309 (5th Cir., 1999).