KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Another civil lawsuit was filed by a former employee of the Kansas City Veterans Administration Hospital in Federal Court Tuesday night. Like other filed against the VA, it alleges discrimination and mistreatment.
“I am strong and here to stand up for my rights,” said Plaintiff Tess Lustado-Lybarger.
It has been a long and difficult journey for Lybarger, a single mother of an 8-year-old son who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. She was was fired from the KC VA Hospital two days before Christmas in 2017, after reporting mistreatment and discrimination.
Earlier that year, Lybarger was promoted from cashier to vending clerk, which came with a raise. Alleged in her lawsuit, two white employees offered the same position received that raise, Lybarger did not.
“Rain or shine or snow I have to get out there to do my job to get paid,” Lybarger said. ‘But they never did pay me with my new position, they still paid me with my cashiers job and it’s not fair.”
Lybarger said in retaliation for filing a complaint, more work was piled on her and she was denied breaks, which Lybarger needed because of a medical condition. She maintains that resulted in a scary episode at work.
“They just watched me falling down, throwing up under the trash can. Nobody helps,” Lybarger said.
Charmayne “Charlie” Brown says she knows Lybarger’s pain. “Every time I hear these stories it opens up my wound all over again,” she said.
Brown is also suing the VA for discrimination, which she believes permeates the VA Hospital in Kansas City.
Brown is a Navy veteran and has been involved with the VA since 1989. She became a registered nurse at the VA Hospital in 2003. Her first experience of racism came from a co-worker Brown said.
“She walks up behind me and kicked me square in my backside and calls me a tar baby,” Brown recalled.
From there, Brown said she was called “Aunt Jemima” and other racist terms as well as becoming the victim of inappropriate sexual innuendo from a doctor she worked with.
“I’m going to fight harder now than I did yesterday and tomorrow I’m gonna fight even harder than I did today because the need is there.” Brown said.
For her part, Lyberger said she is still in treatment for anxiety, depression and stress because of her experience at the VA Hospital. Filing this lawsuit is a big step in reclaiming her power.
“I felt like I can do whatever I want now,” Lybarger said. “I don’t need to be silenced. Nobody controls me, I control myself. “
Both women said there are others at the VA still dealing with mistreatment and urges them to also come forward.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provided this comment:
“VA does not typically comment on pending litigation.
However, the Kansas City VA Medical Center is proud of its diverse and inclusive culture, and the facility does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind.
Kansas City VAMC encourages employees who feel they are encountering discrimination or harassment to contact the facility’s Equal Employment Opportunity Manager or Employee Threat Assessment Team. They may also contact the VA’s Office of Resolution Management at 1-888-566-3982.
Every complaint is thoroughly investigated and handled appropriately. Based on the outcome of that process, VA takes appropriate personnel actions, if warranted.”