KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An African American medical technician at a Kansas City hospital alleges in a lawsuit that a white co-worker called him “boy” and referred to another black employee as “Aunt Jemima.”
Trevor Baston accuses St. Luke’s Physician Group and St. Luke’s Health System of race, color and sex discrimination, harassment and retaliation in a lawsuit that was moved last week from state to federal court.
St. Luke’s Health System said in a statement that it couldn’t comment on pending litigation but stressed that it was committed to a “culture of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all.”
Baston, who began working at St. Luke’s Hospital in 2017, said a co-worker who called him “boy” persisted in doing so even after Baston explained how that was offensive to a black man.
He asked the woman to call him by his name. She allegedly responded: “You don’t know what you are talking about boy, be quiet boy.”
When Baston reported this to his manager, she told him that he was “looking at it incorrectly” and that the employee didn’t mean it. The manager told him there was nothing she could do, the lawsuit says.
The suit also alleges that a white nurse practitioner asked Baston to stand in the room with her while she was with a patient she called “creepy.” The patient, a black man about the same size as Baston, appeared normal to him, the lawsuit said.
After the nurse finished interacting with the patient — faster than usual — she thanked Baston for standing with her and said: “Sometimes I am afraid of big black men especially ones that look like the guy that killed my brother,” the lawsuit says.
Baston then asked her if she was afraid of him and if she realized he was also a “big black man.” She didn’t answer, instead shushing Baston and walking away, according to the lawsuit.
"It's very difficult on a day to day basis, not only facing those comments but then knowing that certain individuals that you work around have those feelings and feel it's appropriate to make those comments," said Katherin Myers, Baston's attorney.
Baston filed a complaint last March with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, despite a manager telling him to keep quiet, the suit said.
Several months later, St. Luke’s held an unconscious bias training session. At the end, Baston’s supervisor’s boss told staff: “What I want you all to do is just get over it and let the past be the past,” the suit said.
Baston, who felt the comment was directed at him and another black employee, went on medical leave because “of the stress and anxiety” that caused him, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit asks for economic and emotional distress damages.