HONOLULU (CN) – The Army and Pentagon turned a blind eye to years of racist harassment at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, 10 present and past employees say in Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff Kelvin Banks and his co-plaintiffs are of African-American, Native American, Mexican-American, Asian or Filipino descent. In a 20-page complaint, they say they harassed with hate letters and racial epithets, threatened with jail time on fraudulent charges, denied promotions, given unfavorable transfers and constructively discharged.
They say the racial discrimination dates back to 1995, and seek $20 million in damages.
According to its website, Tripler supports 264,000 active duty and retired military personnel, their families and veteran beneficiaries. It is one of six regional medical commands in the U. S. Army Medical Command, whose referral and deployed forces include more than 40 countries throughout the Pacific.
Banks, an African-American EMT, claims that after legitimately using sick leave his supervisor tried to dock his pay and charge him with being AWOL. He says his captain “referred to African Americans as ‘slackers’ and ordered ‘Get rid of the slackers!’ Soon after that, managers intensified steps to try to force Banks and other African-American employees out of their jobs.”
Charles Dickey says feared going to work, because of the “unrelenting hostility with its racial overtones.”
Dickey says he “was deeply moved when Banks wept while describing how Banks was treated by white supremacists in the Emergency Department.”
Alison Beavers, a Korean and African-American nurse, says her locker was burglarized and an unsigned hate letter left in it that said she was “like a snake” and “no one likes you here.”
Beavers says: “The racist atmosphere at TAMC was heavy. A white sergeant, listening to country music, menacingly told an African-American coworker, ‘That’s the kind of music we listen to when we jump off the back of the truck and chase you boys through the woods!'”
Edward Maginault is an African-American physician who served in the combat zone in Iraq.
“In March 2006, Maginault was assigned to Schofield Barracks and in March 2009 to TAMC, long known as a hotbed of racial hostilities left over from a previous era. There he found an extremely hostile work environment with racial undercurrents,” he says.
He claims baseless charges and a “secret investigation lacking due process” resulted in his medical privileges being suspended. When a 2010 evaluation of him failed to recommend him for further military duty, he filed a complaint of discrimination and was discharged.
Chiny Wang, a Chinese-Laotian doctor of pharmacy, claims her supervisor “encouraged other staff members to ridicule and demean Wang, and they did.”
Only three of the 10 plaintiffs still work at Tripler.
The plaintiffs seek damages for discrimination, retaliation and violation of equal protection, and want derogatory material expunged from their personnel files.
They are represented by Anthony Quan of Honolulu and Anthony Bothwell of San Francisco.