A former medic in Dearborn, Michigan is going after his old employers with a sex discrimination suit. According to John Benitez Jr, he lost his job with the city’s Department of Health because he provided medical care to Muslim patients.
Benitez, 63, has spent half his life as a registered nurse. In September 2010, he joined the ranks of Dearborn’s Health Department to assist patients in one of the largest Muslim communities in America. Even with a booming population of immigrants practicing Islam, the nurse says that his supervisor told him that they were off limits.
Benitez says that his former employer lectured him against providing care to female Muslim patients that sought help, and instead asked him to send them to her, a Muslim, for treatment. According to the suit recently filed, the Muslim supervisor told Benitez that “conservative” Muslims, specifically women garbed in hijab head scarves, would not want to be touched by a male nurse. Benitez followed the instruction until November 17, when according to the legal filing, a doctor questioned him "about the cumbersome and unusual practice of taking women wearing a head scarf to the nursing supervisor for care.” As a trained, licensed medical professional — and employee of the city — Benitez should have been providing care to anyone in need. After the doctor confronted him about it in November and said the supervisor’s instructions were “improper,” Benitez went back to treating everyone that came in.
Only two weeks later, Benitez was fired.
According to the legal papers, the nurse was explicitly told that the termination was "not because of any performance problem, but was instead carried out because the clinic's conservative male Muslim clientele did not want a male treating female patients." More than 30 years after entering the practice — a tenure which included a stint asVietnam war Army medic — the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave Benitez the go ahead to sue last month and on Wednesday he filed the discrimination suit in Detroit U.S. District Court
City officials have not offered any comments to the media just yet, though Benitez’ attorney says that their client is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as his job reinstated and lost wages and benefits.