1021201502.mp3

A healthcare company placed an ad in a New York pennysaver newsletter, seeking a female nurse. In addition to needing to be laid back and have experience with respiratory management, the woman needed to not be Hatian.

“I thought it was a hoax,” says WLRN reporter Nadege Green, when she first saw the ad.

It's wasn't. The firm has been fined $100,000 and has apologized for the "offensive nature of the ad."

The company,  Interim Healthcare, is based in Florida, and one of its franchisees placed the ad in New York. As word of the ad spread through social media, outrage grew, especially among Haitian Americans across the United States.

Green followed the reaction from South Florida, with its large Haitian immigrant community. "People started talking about how, in 2015, you have what appears to be this type of discrimination happening," she says. 

One response came from the  Haitian American Nurses Association of Florida. In the state, nurses from Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean fuel the nursing industry. The association took to Creole-language radio in Florida to denounce the ad. Another response came from Green's own mom, a home health aide in Florida from Haiti.

"She, like many others, was upset and offended by it," says Green. "This is a community that is very familiar with being discriminated against." 

Indeed, Green says the ad "opened up old wounds" —  memories of more severe discrimination and stigma, including the time of the so-called  "four Hs." That's when, beginning in the 1980s, some people tagged groups at risk for HIV infection as "hemophiliacs, heroin addicts, homosexuals and Haitians."

Green says that after news of the ad hit, she saw reflections on social media of that earlier time, especially memories from when the first waves of Haitians came to the US in the 1970s and 1980s. Some Haitians were ashamed of their identity, or didn't land jobs because of their Creole accents. "This struck a chord all these years later because of the gains the Haitian community has made," says Green. "We have Haitian American elected officials ... working professionals ... nurses. This was a somber reminder that even though the community feels like we've come a long way, this type of discrimination still exists and that, perhaps, there's still a way to go."

UPDATE: WLRN is reporting that the firm has been fined for its discriminatory ad.

So far, there is no explanation for the ad. Interim Healthcare's apology states that the company is trying to "understand how this occurred." Here is Interim Healthcare’s statement:

Interim Healthcare apologizes for "No Haitians" ad.

Interim Healthcare

From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International