The ACLU of Virginia has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit under the Virginia Human Rights Act on behalf of two black women who claim they were fired from a concierge medical practice in Richmond because of their race.
The suit, filed against Executive Health Group of Richmond in cooperation with private employment attorney Craig Curwood of the Curwood Law Firm, claims Titilayo Shiyanbade and Tyesha Brooks were told they were being terminated because of “culture changes” in the office. The firings came after months of racially charged comments and incidents. Both were replaced with white employees the day following their termination.
In its claims, the ACLU-VA cites the Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA), which protects employees of small businesses with between six and 14 employees from being fired because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia because the plaintiffs also have claims under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act regarding unpaid overtime and for race-based discrimination under federal law.
“No one should ever be denied employment because of who they are,” said ACLU-VA Legal Director Eden Heilman. “Any small business in Virginia that discriminates against someone in this way exposes itself to costly litigation and faces harsh consequences under state and federal law.”
The plaintiffs claim that in the months prior to their firing, practice owner Dr. J. Rand Baggesen and his wife, the practice’s membership coordinator, frequently made racially-charged comments, and repeated a racial slur from a patient. From these comments, it was clear to plaintiffs that the “culture change” referred to in their firing was a change from black to white support staff.
People found to have been fired in violation of the VHRA are entitled to receive up to 12 months back pay in damages.