Guyanese Women Seek Damages in Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Guyanese Women of Color Seek Damages In Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against Walgreens Alleging A Whites-Only Management Policy In Its Specialty Pharmacy and Home Infusion Division

March 25, 2010

Four Guyanese females of Indian Descent commenced a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against Walgreens and Walgreens-OptionCare and six high ranking Walgreen managers seeking damages for loss of income, emotional distress, pain and suffering, punitive damages and attorney's fees. The women, Monica Persaud, Bhumati Dubraj, Kalena George and Colene Singh all were former employees of Walgreens.

According to the suit, in March 2006, OptionCare Enterprises, Inc. acquired Trinity Home Care, LLC, a specialty pharmacy and home infusion services company. In May 2007, Walgreens, anxious to get into this lucrative aspect of the home health business purchased OptionCare Enterprises, Inc. The Home care division provides intravenous and respiratory therapy to patients in a non-hospital setting (usually at the patient's home) and bills private insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare for the services.

The women served in various positions with the OptionCare Enterprises while the owner of Trinity Home Care remained with the new entity. These positions included General Manager of the New York City Division, Reimbursement Billing Specialist, Accounts Payable Supervisor/Human Resources and Intake Coordinator. Following the end of the former owners association with Walgreens, an effort was made to rid the company of non-white and Guyanese managerial positions.

The women were accused of incompetence, poor leadership and insubordination. One of the women was demoted on the grounds that she could not speak English well and that she would not be fit for the position although she had received a commendation on the quality of patient care. One woman was fired when she represented the only non-white person who had that position in all of the company's locations. Another woman who was recommended to fill a promotional position was denied the promotion which was filled with a white person far less qualified. One of the women was removed from the position that she was in and replaced by a non-qualified white person but was forced to train the person for the very position that she was removed from. Guyanese women were excluded from staff meetings, given different set of directives from those of the white staff and arbitrarily disciplined. Rumors were spread that there was a "Guyanese group" which were all related as cousins. None of the Guyanese employees were related nor did they know one another prior to their employment.

Complaints to Walgreen's Human Resources Department concerning the discrimination were ignored and no investigatory or remedial action was taken. The lawsuit alleges that all upper management positions in the Walgreens-OptionCare were held or filled by white employees.

The women have hired noted New York employment firm, Taubman Kimelman & Soroka. "I realize it is hard to believe that this type of racial and notional origin discrimination is still occurring in this day and age, Philip Taubman, the women's attorney noted. "But you see women who were treated in a most degrading manner, with Walgreens either intentionally ignoring or deliberately looking the other way."