Former Health Dept. nurse sues city

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – A former city health worker filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit Nov. 23 against the city, alleging he was fired for treating female patients.

Madison Heights resident John Benitez Jr. lost his nursing job with the city’s Health Department in December 2010 after a female Muslim nursing supervisor instructed him to refer female patients wearing a hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf, to her for treatment.

According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of Michigan, Eastern District, Benitez followed the directive until Nov. 17, 2010, when a Health Department doctor witnessed Benitez refer a patient seeking a flu shot to the nursing supervisor.

The doctor told Benitez to treat female patients as any other patient regardless of religion, race, color or ethnicity, the complaint stated.

Benitez declined to comment on this story through his lawyer, Bloomfield Hills-based Deborah Gordon.

Gordon said Benitez was fired for doing his job as directed.

“It was really kind of a shock that in this day and age, someone could be fired because they were a male in a public fa
cility,” she said, “He gets this job and he’s told he can’t give a flu shot to conservative Muslim women.”

According to the complaint, Benitez is seeking lost salary compensation and legal fees, along with job reinstation and protection from any further acts of discrimination. The complaint further alleges city employees were not properly trained to comply with the U.S. Constitution and knew this practice would result in violation of Benitez’s constitutional rights.

“We can hold the city liable in part because a supervisor knew what was going on,” Gordon said. “The city has neglected to properly train their departments.”

City officials declined to comment on the story. The city’s Health Department closed in June 2011 due to budget cuts.

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at