The two women behind the lawsuit say that a Detroit-area hospital and environmental services contracting company asked them to clean 28 rooms using five rags–including several towels that had already been used to wipe down toilets.
Two Detroit women contracted to clean Harper University Hospital and Hutzel Women’s’ Hospital filed a lawsuit on Thursday, claiming they lost their jobs after informing their employer they lacked the equipment needed to keep the medical centers clean.
According to The Detroit Free Press, plaintiffs Denise Bonds and Shenesia Rhodes allege that Tenet Healthcare, which owns both hospitals, and Crothall Healthcare—contracted to provide cleaning services—retaliated against them for raising valid concerns about health, safety, and patient well-being.
Rhodes and Bonds say that Tenet and Crothall refused to provide workers with adequate cleaning supplies, violating health and safety regulations.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs sent pictures to local media outlets showing dried blood and bodily fluids accumulating on hospital equipment.
In their lawsuit, the pair claim that Tenet Healthcare and Crothall Healthcare had unrealistic expectations, demanding that they clean 28 separate patient rooms using just five rags.
Some of the rags, adds the Detroit Free Press, were used to wipe down toilets as well as hospital supplies.
Conditions at the hospitals were so bad, Rhodes and Bonds say, that environmental services workers offered to go to Wal-Mart to purchase cleaning supplies with their own money.
When Rhodes and Bonds tried to escalate their complaints to supervisors, they were reprimanded and faced retaliation.
After the two filed complaints with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they were fired.
“We had harassment … every time we spoke up,” Rhodes said. “That’s when we took further actions and went to OSHA … because it wasn’t safe. We had coworkers who didn’t even have a voice because they were afraid of getting fired.”
“Housekeepers and janitors and other people like that are afraid,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “We decided to be their voice because we are union stewards, but we are more than housekeepers. We are bigger than that. We pray with these patients. We have fun with the employees. They became our family … like a second home. … You want it to be clean. You want it to be great. But it’s like they dropped the ball on us.”
Dearborn-based attorney Azzam Elder told the Free Press that Rhodes and Bonds are seeking an estimated $44 million in compensation, because “the CEOs of both hospitals, they make $22 million a year between the two of them. So we’re going to be asking, because of the damage they’ve caused my clients, for one year’s salary from both of them, because justice belongs to even the little people who speak up.”