Two orderlies were repeatedly subjected to a barrage of racist comments and symbolism by coworkers at North Shore University Hospital, a new lawsuit alleges. Employees Elijah Crawford and Ishmael Cox have filed a discrimination lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court, claiming that they were subjected to incredibly offensive and derogatory behavior from Dr. Charles Militana, an anesthesiologist, and Mario Nistico, a surgical technician. According to the lawsuit, the stupid racist conduct included:

  • Nistico allegedly telling Crawford he had big lips because he was black and that his hair was like a big Brillo Pad.
  • Dr. Militana telling Cox, "It's about time they brought in some Whites here."
  • Nistico referring to blacks as "Niggers" Cox's presence, allegedly declaring, "You Niggers are all the same."
  • Dr. Militina allegedly declaring during a heated conversation, "President Obama is a stupid black man" and asking Crawford, “How can Obama be smart? He is black."

Then, at some point during the summer of 2011, Crawford went into an operating room to clean it and saw a noose hanging from the operating room light. Nistico was the only one in room, "and he was separating his instruments." Crawford, according to the complaint, was "terrified and panic stricken." And in July of last year, Nistico allegedly hung a noose from his own locker, "terrifying" Crawford and Cox.

Instead of reporting the incidents to the police, North Shore conducted an internal investigation that resulted in “half-hearted apologies” from Nistico and Militana, according to the complaint. Both men are still employed at the hospital, and Nistico insists the noose thing was all a big understanding. He told the Daily News the noose in the operating room was a “goof” intended to make light of a demanding surgeon who drove the operating room personnel to complain they wanted to hang themselves. "It’s something that was done that was stupid on my behalf," he added.

Asked about that explanation, attorney Derek T. Smith, who is representing the plaintiffs, tells us, "It's laughable. If you look at the other comments that were made by the defendants in the complaint you can see that the use of the word 'nigger' was thrown around a lot. I can't even say that word without a visceral reaction. And then you consider that one or more of defendants said they 'hated niggers'—you throw that level of racist animosity and then on top of that two instances of a noose where both of my clients, both African-American, were able to see them? No other symbol evokes more racial significance than a noose."

Nistico was suspended without pay for one week and ordered to take a class on workplace behavior. But Cox and Crawford says that's not even close to good enough, and they accuse hospital administrators of trying to cover the whole thing up.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. North Shore spokesman Terry Lynam said in a statement, "Our policy and practices promote diversity and respect for employees. Unfortunately, we can’t get into a discussion about the allegations because it’s under litigation."