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NAACP calls for probe of VA Medical Center

February 06, 2002

NAACP calls for probe of VA Medical Center



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


An NAACP official called Tuesday night for the removal of George Moore as director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg following a case in which a white worker at the hospital was awarded $192,400 after complaining he was harassed for associating with black workers.

Another NAACP official requested that U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., call for an investigation into the hospital.

The requests came during a public meeting at Destiny Church at 115 N. Raleigh St. in which African-American people described what they said were unfair working conditions at the hospital.

They said they were denied promotions despite being given more job responsibilities, were not treated fairly for job considerations and got less on-the-job training than others at the hospital.

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Jim Tolbert, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he was stunned that hospital administrators have not called for a review of the hospital after the case was decided.

"They should be deeply embarrassed. Our elected officials cannot overlook this outrageous conduct," said Tolbert, who called for the removal of Moore.

George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County chapter of the NAACP, called for investigations into the hospital.

Moore was not at the meeting. Contacted at his home afterwards, Moore said there are no widespread racism problems at the hospital along W.Va. 9 east of Martinsburg.

Moore attributed the criticism to a group of people at the hospital who believe they could run the hospital better than the administration. Moore said there are workers who have become upset because he has become strict with them over time they spend at their jobs.

"This is just a vehicle they are riding to try and get what they want," said Moore.

The racial harassment case involved Thomas Lineberg, who said he was harassed by white co-workers for associating with a mostly black crew of carpentry workers. He alleged that racial slurs were common and one of his co-workers kept racist and pornographic material in a locker.

Lineberg has said he reported the situation to Moore and other officials, and their response was to separate him from repair shop workers.

Francis Polito, chief administrative judge for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said in Dec. 28 order that the hospital failed to address racial discrimination and harassment issues in its carpentry shop.

Lineberg was awarded $192,400 from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Moore said the VA plans to appeal the EEOC ruling.

More than 50 people came to the church Tuesday. Speakers pounded their fists on a podium during the meeting and audience members gave several standing ovations to speakers.

One African-American hospital worker said he has an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint pending over a situation in which he was told he had to use a back door to get to his work area. The man, who declined to give his name, said his white counterparts use a front door to the work area.

The man also said other workers were offered 80 hours of professional training while he was offered 12 hours.

Joan Washington, a former employee at the hospital, said she was given more job responsibilities but was denied an "upgrade" that would have given her a promotion and more pay.

Washington said a co-worker was told by a hospital official that Washington would never get an upgrade as long as she worked at the hospital.

"I've gone sleepless nights over some of the problems that happened at that hospital," Washington said.

The president of a worker's union who helps employees follow the grievance process at the hospital alleged that racial discrimination problems have existed for at least 10 years.

John Reisenweber, district field representative for Capito, said the congresswoman was "very concerned" about the situation.

Penny Porter, Eastern Panhandle coordinator for Rockefeller, declined to comment after the meeting. Porter said she would relay the comments from the meeting to Rockefeller and let him make reactions.

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