SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. -- Leaders of the county's Haitian community met behind closed doors Tuesday with representatives from Interim Healthcare and Assemblywoman Ellen C. Jaffee (D) to tease out how it was possible that a discriminatory advertisement seeking nurses ran in the local Pennysaver. They also discussed policies that need to be implemented to insure such a breach never happens again.
Additionally, Haitian leaders, including attorney Judeline Tamar Constant-Rouzard, community leader Carl-Henry Joseph, and Renold Julien, who heads up Knobit Neg Lakay, asked Interim Healthcare representatives to consider a list of demands, including setting up a perpetual scholarship for Haitian nurses graduating from Rockland Community College, Dominican College and Nyack College.
"This dialogue was a start, and it went well," said Joseph. "We will continue to meet."
On Oct. 15, an ad seeking to fill a nursing position in West Haverstraw was placed in the local Pennysaver. The typo-ridden classified said, in part, "Laid back nurse, no haitians." The ad sparked outrage, and the company, a Rockland-based national franchise that provides in-home care, apologized.
The Haitian community was not satisfied with the apology.
On Tuesday, Constant-Rouzard broke down the demands her community has put forth to the health-care company. First, they have asked Interim to stop asking their employees to call politicians and the media in an effort to do damage control.
"This is not appropriate," said Constant-Rouzard. "It puts employees in a compromised position."
Haitian leaders want Interim to provide sensitivity training for employees.
Rouzard said the company has hired an outside consultant to study whether the insensitive ad was a one-time fluke or whether there is a systemic problem. "We want Interim to share the results of the study," the attorney said.
Finally, Haitian leaders would like Interim to set up perpetual scholarships for Haitian nurses.
"We will see what happens," said Constant-Rouzard.
Joyce McNally, a nurse, and president of Interim Healthcare was in attendance at the meeting, but was unwilling to talk to a reporter Tuesday. On Wednesday, she sent this statement: "We take this issue very seriously and sincerely apologize for any pain we have caused. This was an inexcusable mistake and we have taken several steps internally to strengthen our procedures to ensure this will not happen again. We have also terminated the two employees involved in this action, including the senior HR director who was responsible for the oversight.
Interim's advertisement violated federal and state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on national origin, Assistant Attorney General Diane Lucas said in a letter sent to the company in October. The company pulled the ad. There is an ongoing investigation of possible violations at both the state and federal level.
"This is the first time we've sat in a room together," said Jaffee. "It's the first in a series of discussions."