Senior living facility found to have discriminated against Black worker

Edgewood Sartell

Settlement includes lost wages and damages

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) announced June 30 a settlement agreement with a senior living facility, Edgewood Sartell, that violated Minnesota’s civil rights law by discriminating against Jameisha Cox, a personal care assistant, because of her race. 

“Being belittled on a daily basis because of race is sad a reality for Black people,” said Jameisha Cox. “I was blatantly ignored when I raised concerns about being racially harassed. I was ignored again when I was fired because of my race.

“All I wanted was my job back and nobody cared at all. Now my former employer is being held responsible and has to change their policies so what happened to me doesn’t happen for the next Black person.”

“Jameisha Cox’s case lays bare yet another example of anti-Black racism,” said MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero. “As Minnesota’s civil rights enforcement agency, we continue to work every day to build a state where communities of color and Indigenous communities can thrive by enforcing civil rights law, ending racist practices, and undoing systems that perpetuate racial disparities.”

Racial discrimination in employment is consistently one of the largest areas of complaints the MDHR receives. Workplace discrimination is one of the many reasons why Minnesota is home to some of the worst racial disparities in the country. The gap between Black and White families’ incomes in Minnesota is the third worst in the nation, according to the American Community Survey.

The case

Throughout her employment as a personal care assistant at Edgewood Sartell, the senior living facility assigned Jameisha Cox, a Black woman, to work with a resident who racially harassed her. The resident made racist and derogatory comments about Cox’s race, skin and hair. The resident shouted racial epithets at Cox and attempted to rip off Cox’s headscarf.

When Cox and other employees reported the racial harassment to Cox’s supervisor, the supervisor did nothing. Cox’s supervisor also repeatedly denied Cox’s requests to work with a different resident.

In addition to permitting the racial harassment to occur, the senior living facility fired Cox because of her race. Edgewood Sartell falsely claimed that Cox failed to report to work, when in fact she followed the company’s protocol. Cox requested and her supervisor approved time-off because she was waiting for her next paycheck in order to repair her car that she used to get to work. Edgewood Sartell did not fire white employees who had significant attendance issues.

The senior living facility’s executive director never responded to Cox’s complaint in response to her termination. On November 18, 2018, Cox filed a charge of discrimination with the MDHR alleging racial discrimination. Minnesota has one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in employment.

On December 31, 2019, the MDHR determined that Edgewood Sartell violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act when the senior living facility discriminated against Cox when it failed to address the racial harassment by the resident and when it fired Cox because of her race.

Terms of the settlement

To address and prevent future racial discrimination from occurring, the settlement requires Edgewood Sartell to:

  • Amend discrimination and harassment policies to make clear the policies apply to harassing and discriminatory conduct by employees, residents, guests, visitors, vendors and contractors;
  • Inform all employees of the updated policies; and
  • Provide one hour of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training to all non-supervisory and non-managerial employees, provide 1.5 hours of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment to all of its managers and supervisors, and provide one hour of bias training to all of its employees.

The settlement agreement also requires Edgewood Sartell to pay Cox for lost wages and damages.

—Information provided by MDHR. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is the state’s civil rights enforcement agency. If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of discrimination or bias, call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148.

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