Iraq War veteran claims he was fired from VA over discrimination complaints

Fellow officers who defend him face retaliation
Posted at 10:48 PM, Feb 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-24 15:42:52-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Iraq War veteran who filed a discrimination complaint against his boss at the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis claims he was fired from his job for not dropping that complaint.

Allen Poythress, a U.S. Army military police sergeant, was stationed outside Baghdad, Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He was hired as a police officer at the Roudebush VA in January 2015.

He says his boss began making racially insensitive remarks not long after he started working at the VA.

“I was afraid to speak up and say something because at that particular point and time I was afraid of the retaliation that could have occurred,” said Poythress.

At the time, Poythress was the only African-American police officer at the facility.

He says he began recording the things his boss, VA Police Chief Brian Fogg, was saying to him in a journal.

April 1, 2016,

"I was told by the Chief to get baked chicken – leave the fried chicken alone.”

“He referred to me as a token black guy. Every time I eat lunch in the cafeteria he’d make racially charged jokes like 'make sure I don’t eat up all the fried chicken' or he’d refer to watermelon or Kool-Aid as my favorite fruit or beverage that I would like to consume," said Poythress.

Poythress said he was also excluded from the required training in defensive tactics and gun use.

In the summer of 2016, three other white officers alerted the VA that they had heard their chief use the “N” word on a couple of occasions.

Call 6 Investigates reached out to those officers, but only one of them agreed to be identified.

Captain Roman Holowka called for a full investigation. He believed Poythress was being treated differently than other officers.

All three officers who came to Poythress’ defense say they faced retaliation in recent months in the form of random disciplinary write-ups, but they all remain employed at the VA as police officers.

Poythress filed his complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last August.

In November, the Roudebush VA Medical Center Director Brian Hancock offered Poythress a last chance agreement to keep his job.

The five-page agreement said that Poythress was going to be fired for failing to disclose information on his job application – but he could keep his job for at least one year by withdrawing any complaints of discrimination he had against the VA. He also had to give up all rights to file complaints against the VA, ever.

“Something needs to change, and people need to be held accountable for what they are doing,” said Poythress.

The VA declined our requests by e-mail to interview the police chief or the medical center director on December 13 and February 21.

A spokesperson did provide Call 6 Investigates with the following statement:     

“The Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center is bound by a code of behavior that prohibits the personal discussion of individual Veterans or any member of our staff. We respect that commitment. Every aspect of their relationship with the Medical Center is considered a private matter. When a complaint or concern is raised, it is closely reviewed by leadership teams and the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. Our number one priority is to care for Veterans. We provide health care and whenever possible we employ Veterans to serve their fellow Veterans.  It is an honorabl calling. Veterans benefit and we enjoy the service and talents of people from every origin without exception. We invite all qualified candidates to apply when suitable positions are available.”