The Kansas City, Missouri, Veterans Administration hospital continues to face accusations of racial discrimination. The latest being a Black ex-employee who claims he was called disparaging names so often that it eventually became his nickname at his workplace. Now the former employee is suing.
According to the lawsuit, filed on Friday, July 2, in the U.S. District Court for Western District of Missouri, Michael Hill alleged that “during his time working for the Kansas City Veteran’s Administration, colleagues, coworkers, and supervisory personnel repeatedly referred to him ‘boy.’ (Boy is a demeaning term to a Black man, especially a professional).”
The suit, obtained by Atlanta Black Star continued, “Mr. Hill was called ‘Boy’ so often, it became like his name. When he complained, the employees and supervisors with whom he worked started pretending to catch themselves and say things like ‘Oh, I guess I better not say that.’
On another occasion, a white co-worker yelled across the open office with others listening and called Plaintiff [Hill] a crack head. Then retracted it, saying Plaintiff was not on crack, he was on his period.” He claims he heard racist remarks including phrases like “ignorant,” “you people,” “ghetto,” “nappy headed,” and others.
Hill, who holds two master’s degrees in accounting and is licensed as a certified public accountant, had worked at the VA from 2010 to 2019. He said he began having panic attacks because of the treatment he endured while working there. He sought therapy and treatment as a result until he ultimately left the job.
His claims his degrees were often discredited, told they “were not real, were not earned or were not helpful” in the fiscal division, where he was made to feel unwanted. The suit stated that “A white supervisor repeatedly asked him if he wanted to transfer to another VA location, even though he always assured her he’d rather stay at the KCVA.”
Hill was “repeatedly ignored for promotion potential, passed over for promotion, and required to train new individuals to take higher grade positions over him,” documents read.
Rebecca Randles, the attorney representing Hill, says she is also working on several similar cases with the same hospital. She stated that the remarks directed at her client often came from his own bosses, saying that it demonstrated a level of systemic racism within hospital administration.
“These are supervisors at the VA,” Randles said. “And if you have this level of systemic racism at the VA, the veterans of color who are coming in, how are they being treated?”
The American Federation of Government Employees conducted a survey in the midst of nationwide protest following George Floyd’s death and found that 55.4% of the 1,400 respondents said racism was a “serious problem” at the VA.
Additionally, 75.9% of respondents said they had personally experienced “racially charged actions” while at work, including derogatory language, discrimination and stereotyping while 74.5% of those who had not experienced racism themselves reported witnessing racially charged actions taken against others.
Marcellus Shields, president of AFGE Local 342 in Wilmington, Del shared his personal experience as VA employee, “You get called [the N-word], you get called a slave, and you get harassed to the point where you’re seeking therapy for psychological damages. I’ve seen chairs thrown at people by a supervisor, and when we go to management, we can’t get any results.”
Hill is seeking a trial by jury and monetary reward of $75 million.