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Nursing home settles with Black employee forced to treat racist resident

Jameisha Cox, a former personal care assistant with Edgewood Sartell assisted living, says she endured racial slurs and clutches at her head scarf while trying to care for a resident.

Jameisha Cox, a former personal care assistant with Edgewood Sartell assisted living, says she endured racial slurs and clutches at her head scarf while trying to care for a resident. Edgewood Sartell, Facebook

Jameisha Cox got hired as a full-time personal care assistant at central Minnesota's Edgewood Sartell assisted living back in 2017. Her coworkers knew her as a hard worker and a “genuine” person.

But when she walked into one resident in particular’s room, she was allegedly greeted with a demand the staff “not let [her] in there.” Except the resident didn’t say “her," instead using a vile slur for Black people we will not repeat here.

The same resident also tried to rip off Cox's headscarf, and her family would "similarly harass [Cox]," according to an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The harassment got so bad that Cox didn’t want to enter the resident’s room alone. After particularly nasty encounters, she’d sometimes start crying. Cox talked to her supervisor, according to her complaint, and was told the resident was – to use the outdated and offensive term found in the record – “not used to being around colored people.”

“She pays to live here,” the supervisor reportedly said. “There isn’t anything we can do.”

After taking the woman's racism up with her supervisor “three to four” times, Cox asked to be transferred to a different resident, according to her complaint. She says the request was denied, even though white staff were reportedly allowed to switch residents pretty regularly.

For some reason, Cox was stuck with this person.

“Why don’t you prove to them that there is nothing wrong with them working with a Black staff?” the supervisor allegedly told her.

Following that interaction, the writeup says, Cox didn’t feel like her supervisor was going to be of much help. It came to a head in March 2018, when Cox’s car broke down and she didn’t have the money until her next paycheck to fix it. She texted her supervisor and asked to be taken off the schedule in the meantime. (“Transportation problems” are included in Edgewood’s excused absence policy.)

Later that month, Cox got a terse letter saying she’d been fired for not showing up to work. Her first complaint against Edgewood, filed that summer, got no response. In November, Cox took it to the Department of Human Rights, saying Edgewood discriminated against her based on her race.

On Tuesday, the department announced Cox had probable cause to sue Edgewood for discrimination and wrongful termination, and that the care facility had settled instead. As part of that settlement, Sartell will amend its harassment policies, provide anti-discrimination training, and pay Cox for lost wages and damages. 

In a statement, Edgewood denied both Cox's allegations and the department's findings, saying no discrimination or harassment based on race occurred.

"[Edgewood] only reached a settlement in this matter to minimize the time, attorney fees, and costs that it would otherwise expend in addressing this dispute," it said.

But in a statement released by the department on Tuesday afternoon, Cox called her situation – being “belittled on a daily basis because of race” – a “sad reality for Black people.”

“I was blatantly ignored when I raised concerns about being racially harassed,” she said. “I was ignored again when I was fired because of my race. All I wanted was my job back, and nobody cared at all.”