Former VA worker files suit claiming violations of the Civil Rights Act

By Elizabeth Alt | Jun 14, 2018

A former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employee recently filed a lawsuit alleging her supervisor punished, harassed and threatened her based on her gender and religion and retaliated against her for making a complaint. 

In her suit filed May 31 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, former VA employee Allison Snipes also claims violations of the Civil Rights Act.

In her filing, Snipes said she started her work in 2014 for the VA chief of staff as an informatics intern and was then promoted to program specialist and Stanford Geriatric Medicine Fellowship Coordinator under Elizabeth Turner-Nichols in 2016.

Turner-Nichols is president of the Silicon Valley Chapter of Blacks in Government, a “a private organization providing networking opportunities and support for African-Americans working in government jobs" of which Snipes also became a member, the filing said. The suit names both Turner-Nichols and Peter O’Rourke, acting secretary of the VA.

The complaint alleges Turner-Nichols frequently boasted about having powerful allies in the government and vocally expressed her “contempt” for religious people who did not follow the beliefs of the religion.

The suit claims that when Turner-Nichols found out Snipes was having a romantic relationship with a man, which is forbidden in her Pentecostal religion, Turner-Nichols forced Snipes to call her parents in front of her to “confess.” The complaint states this has caused Snipes to be “spiritually, emotionally and financially cut off from her parents, and excommunicated from her church.” 

The complaint alleges Turner-Nichols continued to punish, harass, threaten and intimidate Snipes by ostracizing her, sabotaging her work, making derogatory comments, monitoring her emails, excluding her from meetings and denying training. 

Snipes claims Turner-Nichols threatened to have the Equal Employment Office investigate her and intimidated Snipes by telling her she could shut down any union investigation because of her brother’s position in the union and her contacts. 

Snipes alleges Turner-Nichols told her she was discipling her because she complained to her superiors in 2016. Snipes made complaints to her supervisors multiple times and requested a transfer, and finally filed a complaint with the EEO. 

Snipes is requesting a trial by jury and is seeking compensatory and general damages, exemplary or punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs, and prejudgment interest. 

Snipes  is represented by Scott A. Berman of Pierce & Shearer LLP in Redwood City.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Case Number 3:18-cv-03259-MEJ

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