Nurse alleges discrimination due to race

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jul. 30, 2009, 3:00am

GALVESTON � A Tyler County woman claims the University of Texas Medical Branch assigned her to menial tasks because of her race, recent court documents say.

Carolyn J. Burrell of Chester explains in her lawsuit that she worked for the 120-year-old medical institution as a registered nurse at the Gib Lewis Unit in Woodville, but her employer "insisted on sending the plaintiff to another unit to do a job that was normally required of a lower staff."

"The defendant, the University of Texas Medical Branch, intentionally engaged in unlawful employment practices involving the plaintiff because of her race," the original petition says.

"The plaintiff alleges that the defendant, the University of Texas Medical Branch, discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of race with malice or with reckless indifference to the state-protected rights of the plaintiff."

The suit was filed in Galveston County District Court on July 28.

Burrell, who is black, argues that her supervisor gave her the order because the lower positioned staff member, a white licensed vocational nurse, to whom the undisclosed task was assigned, was given preferential treatment and therefore excused.

The plaintiff alleges her ordeal is not an isolated incident since her superiors reportedly sent other black RNs to the defendant's Livingston Unit instead of lower cadre employees, among them whites.

"It had a disparate and adverse impact on the plaintiff because of her race," the suit says. Such employment practices were not job-related and were not consistent with business necessity."

Consequently, Burrell was forced to resign three months ago.

She seeks attorney's fees, back pay, and a reinstatement of her original position and pay grade from the defendant as well as a jury trial.

Houston attorney John-Baptist A. Sekumade is representing the plaintiff, and the case has been assigned to Galveston County 10th District Court Judge David Garner.

Case No. 09CV1323

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