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Your Customers Can Get You in Trouble

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Most of us know and have used the statement, “the customer is always right” but in some instances it’s not always the case. In Saturday’s business section of the Press Enterprise the top story caught my attention, as did two other stories on that page. The top story headline was “Some patients won’t see nurses of different race”. The second story was “Black contractors group seeks hiring parity and the third was “Unemployment rate dip”.

The first story cited the request of a White father in Detroit, with a swastika tattoo insisting that Black nurses not be allowed to touch his newborn and the request was written on the patient’s chart. Of course the two Black nurses on duty read the note and wondered what were they to do if the baby needed care and no other White nurses were on duty with them. There were no compelling reasons stated with the note and of course the nurses filed a charge against the hospital for honoring this “racial preference” request from their customer.

This first story reminded me of a phone call I received from the head nurse at Kaiser Hospital’s maternity ward during my early days as the Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator at Kaiser Hospital in Fontana. She said, “Hardy I have a problem, there is a young White girl here in labor and she does not want our Black doctor to help with her delivery and there is no other doctor on duty.“

I told her we couldn’t assign our services to members based on race, so she will have to go somewhere else for service because we cannot honor her request.

A few hours went by and I received another call which the head nurse informed me that it worked out quite well. As the baby moved closer to being delivered and discomfort came with pain the doctor’s race became less of an issue. The doctor did such a great job that she selected him to be her doctor after the delivery.

Now there are times when certain circumstances of race or gender might be a reasonable request from a patient or family member because of some traumatic life experience that is motivating the request, which must be evaluated and considered. If you are in the emergency room for care after just being beat up by a group wearing swastikas, you might reject the care from a health worker with those tattoos all over his arms and body.

Not fully understanding discrimination law at the time, I relied on my personal experience as the first Black meter reader at Edison. I came into the office after reading meters on my shift and my supervisor, Bill Slaven, called me into his office and said, “Hardy we received a call from a customer who told me he did not want any Negros coming on his property reading his electric meter.” Mr. Slaven said “I told him we would send a crew out to disconnect his service and he could sign up with another company for electrical service or he will accept whoever we send out regardless of race or sex.”I just wanted you to know customers do not tell us how to run our business.”

My experience has told me the customer is not always right and sometimes can get you into real trouble.

Black Workers Need Work Too

The second PE story involved Black workers in the construction industry protesting the lack of being hired on a state funded project worth $63.2 million to build a courthouse in Banning. The Young Black Contractors Association of South Central spokesperson Drexell Johnson said in the article that officials made a commitment to put a racially diverse pool of local laborers and contractors to work on the project but that has not happened. They have hired many minorities but none are Black.

Banning is a city in Riverside County that has a good reputation over many years in the Black community. The mayor, Debbie Franklin is African American and Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Botts is White and the city has a long history of inclusion of all races in public policy and the citizens elect minorities to the city council and to the school board.

I wonder what went wrong with the contractors in charge of this project to think that they could build without the Black community noticing or saying anything?

With the unemployment rate for Blacks doubled that of any other group in California, I can see why they would protest. If the contractor was using his on money maybe he could hire whomever he pleases, but since this is public money and being built for public use he is wrong. So I encourage him to get with the program and be more inclusive or not go after publicly funded projects.

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