Cynthia King, left, talks to a passerby during a protest over alleged civil rights violations outside Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital Friday in Dowagiac. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT
Cynthia King, left, talks to a passerby during a protest over alleged civil rights violations outside Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital Friday in Dowagiac. Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

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Weekend update: Woman protests Dowagiac hospital over alleged civil rights violations

Published 6:21pm Friday, October 25, 2013

DOWAGIAC — Cynthia King and her husband walked the sidewalk outside Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital Friday holding signs and protesting what they believe are civil rights violations made by the hospital.

King, 59, filed a lawsuit against Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital in April, claiming she was fired because of her religion and age.

“I hope the community comes together behind me and sees the injustice behind this,” King said. “Hopefully I can do something to better the community and what is going on inside (Borgess).”

Borgess is being represented by attorneys Craig H. Lubben and Rebecca L. Strauss with Miller Johnson PLC in Kalamazoo. Messages left with Lubben and Strauss were not returned as of press time.

The hospital declined to speak specifically about the lawsuit.

“We won’t comment on a former associate who has filed a suit. However we respect her right to express her views,” said Lew Tysman, spokesperson for Borgess Health. “Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital is a health ministry that has served Dowagiac area residents for nearly 100 years.”

King, a Muslim, worked as a ward secretary at Borgess Lee in Dowagiac for nearly nine years until she was terminated in August 2012.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court’s Western District of Michigan, states that one of the reasons King was fired was because she refused to have any physical contact with male patients, which is against her religion.

King said one of the job duties of a secretary is to place wristbands on patients, which would eventually require her to make contact with a male patient’s arm. However, King said management did not make her perform this duty out of respect for her religious beliefs. Instead, King would have a nurse place the wristband on for her.

That changed when the hospital brought in a new person to supervise the unit, King said and alleged in the lawsuit. The new supervisor, according to the complaint, wanted to add more patient care duties to her role.

The complaint states that when King voiced her concerns about physical contact with male patients, she was informed that she should “find other work.”

King said she was fired shortly after an issue with the wristbands.

“They said I was a danger to the ER because I didn’t put the arm band on the patients,” she said.

King said she held the protest Friday because she was upset with the outcome of mediation with the hospital.

The complaint is seeking an amount greater than $500,000.

“We walked out because that (offer) was ridiculous,” she said.

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