Several weeks ago, the Miami Herald published my opinion piece in favor of modifying Miami-Dade County’s employment policies. To highlight the need to reform the content of job applications, I alluded to the notorious signs of blatant employment discrimination in American history: “No Irish need apply.” “No blacks, Jews or Mexicans.”
Then, to my utter disbelief, a New York franchisee of Interim HealthCare Inc., whose main franchisor is in Sunrise, Florida, placed an advertisement that declared “No Haitians” need apply. This happened in 2015, in the state of New York, in the United States of America.
In response to the vocal outrage by Haitian nurses, the public-relations team from Interim HealthCare Inc. immediately issued an apology. New York’s attorney general, aware of the apology, opened an investigation in order to unearth the truth about this incident. Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general, often recognized for her collaboration with her peers in other states on several legal matters, should immediately join this case.
As the chairman of the County Commission, I have concentrated on policies to assist residents seeking gainful employment. Eliminating the criminal-history inquiry on county employment applications was adopted to provide everyone a chance to compete, although an arrest or conviction has to be explained before the final hiring decision. Clearing the path to gainful employment is part of my effort to reduce the income inequality gap.
There are enough obstacles to finding a decent job in South Florida without having to face prejudice. Being confronted with anti-Haitian sentiment in the help-wanted section of a publication is disturbing and reprehensible.
I ask my fellow elected officials to join me in condemning this incident and support my efforts to identify and hold accountable any company officials or employees who are found responsible for this public expression of hatred.
In pursuit of justice, I have joined ranks with the professionals of the Haitian American Nurses Association (HANA), an organization formed to promote the highest standards of quality healthcare. The leadership of HANA and I have called upon Ms. Bondi to thoroughly investigate Interim HealthCare Inc. for this gross violation of employment law, and I am committed to helping her in any way to facilitate such an investigation. It must be determined whether the corporate environment at the company gave rise to this hateful advertisement. This needs to be carefully examined and completely reformed.
The gross violation of decades-old discrimination laws by Interim HealthCare, Inc. tells us something is wrong in this country and makes us wonder about the corporate culture that would allow this. This corporation’s main franchisor is in our back yard. As a community, we need to examine our consciences and renew our commitment to fairness.
Government officials, as representatives of the people, must lead by example to advance fair employment practices. We must always do our best to ensure all job applicants receive fair and equitable consideration. Discrimination against an ethnic group should never interfere with our commitment to selecting the best candidate following a fair and equitable process.
This incident has sparked widespread outrage in many and, in particular, Americans of Haitian descent. When an employer rejects an individual based on race or nationality, it is offensive to everyone. At different times, the Irish, Jews, Mexicans, African Americans and other minorities have all had to live in the shadow of prejudice and hatred.
The only way to escape this shadow is to shine a bright light on it. I commit to assisting Attorney General Bondi in any way she finds appropriate to facilitate her review of this matter. It is my prayer that the signs of prejudice we see today will direct us toward becoming a more unified people, truly dedicated to “justice for all.”
Jean Monestime is chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission and represents District 2.