“I feel like there was a racial element because these people are not African-American like me, I was the only African-American working in the clinic”
A Texas nurse is suing the hospital she claims caused her depression and anxiety because of an onslaught of racism and harassment on the job. Jazzalynn McMurrin, 43, claims in a federal civil rights employment discrimination lawsuit her bosses singled her out because she was Black.
McMurrin, a registered nurse, is suing her former employer, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Galveston, Texas, after she says she experienced three years of harassment and racism while on the job. The Texas native says she became a nurse because she loved helping others.
“It made me build up a lot of compassion I had for other people, and I wanted to do more and give more so I decided to become a nurse,” McMurrin said.
McMurrin started working at MD Anderson in July 2018, but once the manager who hired her left the hospital shortly after she started her employment, she says her new bosses started treating her differently than her white colleagues and she started feeling less valued on the job.
“Once we brought those concerns forward, I got pointed as, it was you, you’re the one who went and said those things about me,” McMurrin said.
After raising her concerns about her perceived mistreatment, McMurrin says she felt singled out by her bosses which kickstarted a series of events where she filed several grievances because of alleged harassment. Some of the allegations outlined in the lawsuit include McMurrin being overly criticized for minor things like the way her voice sounds while speaking resulting in her being written up.
“I’ve always had a heavy masculine voice, so I can’t always control the tone and bass of my voice if it’s perceived in an aggressive manner, and her reply was, ‘That’s why I’m sending you to a course so you can learn how to speak,’” McMurrin said.
Other allegations in McMurrin’s lawsuit include a white colleague criticizing her physical features as a Black woman, specifically the thickness of her lips, her hips, and the way she wears her makeup.
“She came to work and again apologized again, and she said, ‘I just felt like that was a compliment because I told my husband, “Jazz doesn’t have to buy boobs and a butt like I have to,”’ and it was just very uncomfortable,” McMurrin said of the alleged racialized harassment on the job.
McMurrin says she faced numerous write-ups and reprimands, including being assigned to work undesirable shifts in the hospital’s injection department, which she describes as tedious work. Another incident came when McMurrin was written up for allegedly rolling her eyes at another staffer even though she was on vacation when the alleged incident happened.
“I feel like there was a racial element because these people are not African-American like me, I was the only African-American working in the clinic,” McMurrin said of the mounting incident of alleged harassment and hostile working environment.
McMurrin says she knew the succession of write-ups could cost her her nursing job, so she tried to raise concerns to higher-ups but that also proved futile.
“He said, can you do me a favor and I said yeah, what’s up, he said, quit playing with these white folks, and I’m taken aback, like whoa,” McMurrin described of a conversation she had with her department director over the allegations.
Once McMurrin’s health started suffering after years of alleged racial harassment on the job causing her to have anxiety, depression, and other ailments, she finally quit in October 2021.
On June 1, 2022, McMurrin filed a lawsuit against MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Ms. McMurrin is the victim of insidious, illegal discrimination, we have asked for damages that do include the mental anguish, the stress, the psychological care but also include the lost wages,” Robert Teir, McMurrin’s attorney said.
Atlanta Black Star received a statement from MD Anderson Cancer Center on the allegations lodged against them in McMurrin’s lawsuit. “The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center does not comment on pending litigation. MD Anderson is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Our community of 22,000 employees is supported and connected through our DEI programs and services, which are a top priority for our leadership,” a spokeswoman said in response to the pending lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks at least $150,000 in damages.
McMurrin says she is pushing forward with her lawsuit because she does not want any Black nurses to experience the kind of alleged harassment she endured. “Moving forward, these things should get addressed for people coming up behind me who may walk into these experiences,” she said.