AMERICAN FORK (ABC4 News) – A Utah County woman said she was wrongfully discriminated against at BioLife Plasma Center in American Fork because of her wardrobe. She said she has donated several times before while wearing similar clothing with no issues.
Rebecca Ortinez went in for her sixth donation Wednesday evening, wearing a tank top and sweat pants.
“Yesterday was like 95 degrees in the heat and it is always hotter between 4:00 and 6:00. I was wearing clothes that was easy to access because you know, they have to get to my arms to take the blood pressure,” she said. “I was hot so I didn’t want to wear as many clothes as I would in the workplace.”
But before she got to the donation chair, she said a manager pulled her into the office and asked her to leave because of what she was wearing.
“When I sat down, initially I was worried because I thought they were going to tell me that they found I had some sort of illness. But no. The manager told me my outfit was really distracting to the employees and donors. She said, ‘I would have you come back later today with a better shirt on. But since you’ve already completed your questionnaire, you can’t come back until tomorrow.”
She added, “As we were leaving the office, she said, ‘You know, we have a lot of RMs (or LDS returned missionaries) that donate here and your shirt is very distracting,'” said Ortinez.
Ortinez exited the building but then returned and requested to get the incident documented in writing or a copy of their dress code.
“She refused and just got angrier and angrier as we were talking back and forth. She kept mentioning my nipples, which made me uncomfortable,” said Ortinez. “I asked her why she was so embarrassed of my body and she wouldn’t answer.”
The manager told Ortinez she would call police if she didn’t leave.
“I said, ‘No, please do call the police. So I have a written report on what has been happening,'” said Ortinez.
She went on to say, “I don’t think they handled this situation well. There is nothing posted about a dress code. The only warning they have is if I have a weapon on me, they can refuse service. Nothing about shirts, shoes, or pants. I’ve also looked online and found nothing about a dress code, except for employees.”
American Fork Police confirmed they were called to the plasma center Wednesday evening for a disturbance. Lt. Cameron Paul said they cannot enforce a business policy on behalf of a private company, but their role was mainly to keep the peace between the two parties. A police report was not made available as of Thursday afternoon.
Ortinez said she had been banned from all BioLife Plasma Centers for life and would be charged with trespassing if she returned to any of their locations.
In a statement to ABC4 News, a representative for BioLife Plasma Center wrote:
“BioLife Plasma Services is grateful to all individuals who choose to give their time to donate plasma, which is critical to producing therapies that treat a range of rare and challenging diseases. It’s important to us that all of our donors have a positive experience in our centers. We appreciate the concern raised by the donor, and are taking the matter seriously. Our goal is to ensure BioLife standards are clear to both our employees and donors visiting the center. As such, we are reviewing our center protocols across all of our facilities to ensure that they are being communicated effectively and applied consistently.”
Ortinez said she is speaking out about this incident, not just because she disagrees with how it was handled, but also to be an example for her kids.
“I would love a public apology, better training on diversity and gender discrimination. But also, I have two little girls and I don’t want them to be ashamed of their body. I don’t want to be ashamed of what they’re wearing and I want them to be comfortable,” she said.