Male nurse sues after firing for treating Muslim women
Robert Snell/ The Detroit News
Detroit— A male nurse filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against the city of Dearborn on Wednesday, claiming he was fired for treating conservative Muslim women wearing head scarves.
John Benitez Jr. is suing for unspecified damages and to reclaim his job, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
Benitez, 63, of Madison Heights, worked at the city’s taxpayer-funded health clinic. He alleges he was ordered by a female supervisor not to treat conservative Muslim women, specifically those wearing head scarves, according to the lawsuit. He was told the clinic’s male Muslim clientele did not want a male treating female patients.
He complied until November 2010, when a doctor ordered him to treat Muslim women as he would any other patient. Benitez followed the doctor’s order and was fired less than one month later, according to the lawsuit.
“When you get to the point that taxpayer-funded entities are having to comply with personal religious beliefs rather than letting people do their job you’re going down a road that does not end in a good place,” the nurse’s lawyer Deborah Gordon said in an interview Wednesday. “If people don’t want to be treated, they can go find their own practitioner.”
There was no immediate comment from a Dearborn spokeswoman.
Hospitals and health clinics routinely make accommodations based on religion, said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
“In general, unless it is for emergency situations, many Muslims would prefer being screened and touched by someone of the same gender,” Walid said. “If he was fired based upon an order from a supervisor, that obviously would be unjust.”