RAPID CITY – Ashley Forney, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, was terminated from her employment with Compass One Healthcare at Monument Health after she raised concerns to her superiors about experiencing racism and hostility from a co-worker.
Compass One Healthcare provides support services to healthcare systems that include food and nutrition, environmental services, patient transportation, facility maintenance, and laundry.
Forney, 30, had worked at Compass One for 6 months. She was let go when she entered a meeting with human resources on June 4 which she thought was in regards to her concerns of a co-worker. Instead of addressing her concerns, human resources fired her for an incident that happened nearly three months prior on March 12.
At the beginning of her employment, Forney had a normal relationship with the male co-worker that she would eventually have issues with.
“He was very nice at first, and we talked about my culture,” she said. “He asked a lot of questions.”
This co-worker had even given Forney a ride to and from work a few times, a gesture that she took well despite charging $2 for gas money.
Their relationship changed when the co-worker gave Forney a nickname, and requested a “Native name” in return. She simply responded to him by saying “I would rather be called by my name, and it is not my place to give you a name.”
The co-worker pleaded with her and asked her to recall the times that he had given her a ride home. “It was like I owed him something because he did something nice for me,” she said. “Even though I already paid him $2 for gas.”
When Forney originally approached her manager about this exchange, her co-worker denied having said any of it. Forney let it go and treated him like any other co-worker, but with distance.
The co-worker was not wearing a hairnet sometime at the beginning of May. Forney approached him and asked him to put one on. She recalls him literally dropping what he was doing on the floor and asking “Are you going to bother me today?”
At this point, Forney felt threatened by her co-worker’s actions. “I did not feel comfortable,” she said. “I did not want to be around him.”
Later in May, Forney had fallen and hurt her knee while at work. She offered to still work while not performing labor intensive duties, but was told by her superiors to take time off.
When she returned to work, she gave sage to the hostile co-worker. “I thought of giving him sage to be nice,” she said. “We were on good terms before everything.”
She recalls the co-worker responding to the gift by asking “Will it protect me from you?”
With this response, Forney set up a meeting with her managers and human resources to express concern and come to a solution. She was instead let go for an incident that had happened on March 12.
The incident in March stemmed from another employee of Monument telling Forney not to use a certain elevator. The other employee had said that people were working to disinfect the elevator after a patient who was infected with COVID-19 rode in it. Forney returned to her work station where she conveyed that message to her managers. Her managers told her to not speak of it and return to work as normal.
The elevator incident was referenced by human resources as a HIPAA violation, and Forney was terminated. She disagrees that it was a HIPAA violation as she hadn’t even seen the patient, let alone said anyone’s name. “I was just saying what I was told,” she said.
Forney’s concerns about her co-workers hostile comments were not addressed in the June 4 meeting.
“I don’t want anyone that is Native, or a person of a different color, to go through what I did,” said Forney.
A Compass One Healthcare Spokesperson said “While we’re not in a position to publicly share details of personnel matters, we are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for all of our associates where everyone acts with integrity.”
Forney wishes that the situation was handled more professionally. “I really like working there but what that co-worker did was uncalled for,” she said.
(Contact Travis at email@example.com)
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