A federal agency is appealing a court ruling that removed some workers and released a retirement community’s management company from responsibility in a case alleging racist treatment by residents against Black employees. 

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday to reinstate the claims of 15 individuals that it said were improperly removed from the case against The Village at Hamilton Pointe in Newburgh, IN. Government attorney Gail Coleman told the three-judge panel that there should be a new trial for six workers whom a jury ruled against in 2022, saying the judge in that case used “misleading verdict forms,” according to Courthouse News Service. 

“If the verdict forms had been correct, that would have eliminated any confusion,” Coleman said during arguments. “As it was, it truly was impossible for the jury to rule on the totality of circumstances.”

An attorney for the facility, which offers a range of senior and aging services, told the judges that the forms did not prevent the jury from considering any evidence presented and that they were “virtually the same form” recommended by the EEOC.

The EEOC originally filed the case in 2017 on behalf of seven employees whom it said were subjected to a racist environment for at least two years of which the management company, Tender Loving Care Management (TLC), was aware. TLC handles management, finances and HR functions for the nursing home. 

A spokesman for TLC declined to comment Friday when contacted by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, citing the ongoing case, which court observers said could last into early 2024. 

The EEOC identified Black Hamilton Pointe workers’ experiences of this allegedly racist environment into at least 2015, and initially filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of seven of them in September 2017. Besides Hamilton Pointe itself, the complaint also named as a defendant Tender Loving Care Management. By 2018, the EEOC had identified 52 workers facing similar experiences under Hamilton Pointe and TLC Management, but it voluntarily removed five of them from the suit.

In August 2022, a jury ruled against the EEOC in all but one case — an employee whom the court awarded $45,000 for his racial harassment claim, according to Courthouse News Services. Prior to the trial, a US District Judge ruled TLC was not responsible for any of the allegedly racist resident behaviors and also halted the cases of seven Black workers who had filed harassment claims. 

The EEOC has been focused on racial harassment claims involving residents, winning a preliminary decision in July against a Vermont nursing home that will face a commission lawsuit alleging the facility failed to take appropriate measures to stop physical assaults and racial slurs from residents toward Black staff members.