Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When the State Makes Working Illegal

Stephanie Patton In October of 2010, I reported on the decision in Peace of Mind Adult Day Care Center vs. Department of Social Services (DSS), et. al. At the heart of the decision was Judge Rod Chapel's finding that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) had demonstrated "racially discriminatory animus" in their treatment of Stephanie Patton, an African-American woman who owned and ran Peace of Mind Adult Day Care Center.

Last week I reported that Missouri's Court of Appeals for the Western District had taken issue with Chapel's decision. In part, the Appeals Court ruled:
Evidence that a single agency employee made a racial remark to Patton is insufficient as a matter of law to support a conclusion that the entire agency thereafter acted in its handling of Patton with racial animus.
One of the side effects of the lawsuit during the two year appeals process was Stephanie's inability to find employment doing the work that she loves.

Stephanie spent over fifteen years running an adult day care service in Missouri. She is not only familiar with the business side of Medicaid, but also the day-to-day operations of caring for her client-patients. Adult day care providers have to be knowledgeable about a range of issues because they have to be able to address the healthcare needs of the people they see. Those needs can range from physical disabilities to psychological challenges in the social environment of the day care facility. Stephanie has the skills required; however, she was not been able to find work in her field.

While the state of Missouri is suffering with the worst unemployment in the region, Stephanie's skills are in an area that has continued to grow: healthcare. Early on in the appeals process, she had interviews with other adult day care providers and hospitals, but those potential employers turned her away. When potential employers checked her in the DHSS database, there was a warning not to hire her. She had been blacklisted.

At the suggestion of a relative, she contacted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) in late June of 2011. DHSS responded with a letter indicating that she was now eligible to work for hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Why wasn't Stephanie ever notified of the fact that she had been blacklisted? Was an overzealous DHSS employee out for revenge after her court victory?

I think knowing this background to Stephanie's story, knowing what Stephanie went through, that's what makes the Appeals Court's ruling so disappointing to me. Judge Chapel's original finding that, not just an employee, but rather the Department of Health and Senior Services had demonstrated "racially discriminatory animus" towards Stephanie seems closer to the truth.

1 comment:

GRHutch said...

The fact that one Mo. employee said the slur AND then the database blacklisted her does show animus.
The Appeals Court is wrong.