Tripler employees claim racial discrimination - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Tripler employees claim racial discrimination

Tony Bothwell Tony Bothwell
Tripler Army Medical Center Tripler Army Medical Center
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tripler Army Medical Center just settled an $11 million medical malpractice lawsuit in September.  Now some employees plan to file a separate case claiming they've been victims of racial discrimination.

Some of the alleged complaints go back five years.  They involve current and former employees.

Tripler Army Medical Center is a place of healing but at least six employees contacted a civil rights lawyer alleging hateful and racial comments.

"There's been name calling a black employee called an Oreo, an Oreo cookie. A white employee married to a black called a reverse Oreo cookie. A black employee called a beast on repeated occasions," said Tony Bothwell, plaintiff's attorney.

The alleged comments involve both managers and peers.  One claim states a white supervisor was listening to country music and made a comment to an African American sergeant.

"He said, 'that's the kind of music we listen to when we get out of the back of a truck and chase you boys through the woods.' And it was said in a manner that was very intimidating and made the sergeant very uncomfortable," said Bothwell. 

"Probably the most extreme incident a senior officer threw a chair at a racially disfavored young woman employee and this woman was just terrified by this," claimed Bothwell.  "These are examples.  We can go on all day."

The plaintiffs are both African American and Asian, men and women and include nurses, technicians, cardiologists and some managers.

"One who was assigned to Tripler as an Army captain, an African American woman, had come back from the war zone in Iraq and she said the discrimination I'm subjected to here at Tripler she'd rather be back in Iraq, and she meant it," said Bothwell.  "It's very sad. In Hawaii of all places in this day and age it shouldn't be. It cannot go on."

Employees also claim supervisors forged documents on disciplinary forms, put hate letters in lockers and were denied training because of their race.  They've already filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Now they will file a class action lawsuit to include all non-white employees.  They don't know how much money they'll seek but they do say they have witnesses and documents to prove their case and plan to file all together in January.

A Tripler Army Medical Center spokesperson says if and when the lawsuit is filed they will respond then.

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