By Michael Golbloom and David Golberg
13 current and former NGHS employees contacted VH2 wanting to share allegations of a hostile working environment, blatant racism and the overall mistreatment of minorities at the Northeast Georgia organization centered in Gainesville, Georgia and surrounding areas.
The current and former employees worked primarily in Gainesville, Braselton, Georgia and their Frontage Road corporate headquarters in Oakwood, Georgia. They asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation for reporting these troubling allegations.
Case after case, the common theme is that NGHS leadership sic’s human resources personnel on minority employees to wrongly terminate them or force them out if they voice a concern. As they described in a collective statement, “if they seem like the type to push back against the toxic NGHS culture that tries to dehumanize people of color, especially black people, then they’re marked for a hostile working experience, discrimination, retaliation and firing”.
Though there were several common themes surrounding no accountability for NGHS leadership, one of the primary culprits alleged by the employees was the human resources department under the leadership of the chief of staff to the CEO named Melissa Tymchuk , the HR director, Tiffany Farris and the system wide manager Robin Daniel. In more specific detail, the employees stated that under these leaders, HR is the driving force behind much of the horrible conditions for minorities at NGHS.
“HR does the dirty work but they also like to ‘put the hits out’ to other white non-HR employees and then they sandwich the minorities in between from above and below until they can’t take it and leave or get fired without any good reason. I think it’s time for the world to know how they operate here so I’m naming names. I’ve been watching them do this for years and I had enough” said another current employee.
In one case, the employees allege that the first Latino Chief Human Resources Officer was forced out after a year for trying to make sweeping changes to the culture to include diversity, equity and inclusion and the better treatment of minorities. “Look at how they did Louisa” one whistleblower said. Referring to Louisa Gutman who according to records, did in fact leave within 18 months of her start date at NGHS. “Even if the minority is doing an outstanding job, they get rid of them and say ‘it wasn’t a culture good fit’ or make up a ridiculous excuse for getting rid of them which is the same as making them want to leave because of the hostile working environment. She tried to bring change and challenged them on their illegal behavior and for violating their own policies and they got rid of her for it.” a current employee said.
“Do you guys remember Tammy Reynolds?” asked another. Records show that Reynolds was a part of the NGHS leadership team for only approximately 24 months and left too. The employees claim that the pattern of black (and minority) talent that suddenly leaves after a few months or is fired shows a clear and undeniable pattern of mistreatment at the hands of NGHS. A preliminary review of six more black employees who worked in HR shows that at least on the surface, there may be a distinct pattern to their complaints. “They run off HR business partners and other key positions and have horrible retention for a reason. Just look at the stats because numbers don’t lie” said the same employee. VH2 is reviewing files given to us and there seems to be a surprising trend in black employees terminated or who mysteriously left without any clear reason and then going on to other roles in other organizations with the same position. So why leave? But according to these employees, when we review the statistics, it’s “a damning condemnation” of the North Georgia Healthcare System based in racism and discrimination. VH2 asked if it could be because of poor equipment, low morale, not being progressive enough or other unrelated reasons but collectively, the team firmly placed an atmosphere of discrimination and racism center stage.
In another case, the employees allege the humiliation of the first and only black organizational development executive who is recently separated from NGHS under what the whistleblowers call “racist and discriminatory conditions”. “She restructured and raised the professionalism and performance of the entire department and they thanked her by trying to embarrass her at high level meetings and sic’d other white employees on her from different areas and even the ones that worked for her. It was a set up and everyone knew it.” said a current white NGHS employee in support of the whistleblower group. “They harass black employees who speak up against the culture or who just come to work and do an excellent job which is offensive to them. Instead of celebrating a good job well done, they’ll congratulate them by making life a living hell for them instead and then the next thing we know, they’re disappeared!” she went on to say. Records indicate that there was an organizational development executive with the name that the whistleblowers provided, who like Louisa, was only there for approximately 18 months too. VHS is working to confirm more of the details surrounding their account.
In the same case, the employees allege that a good friend of the top brass and white employee named Kimberly Fox was instrumental in sabotaging the newly appointed black executive’s burgeoning department and interfered constantly. They also allege that Fox demanded to have another recent black employee fired too. “The guy complained about the thing that everyone knows which is that she’s a nasty undercover bigot and unprofessional, he didn’t tolerate it and the next thing everyone knew, she was calling for his head too. But the problem was, the executive director demanded everyone be treated fairly no matter what their race was. She demanded they follow our policies and the law which is a big no no here. Kim didn’t like him for challenging her on her ugly behavior and her lack of expertise. Mind you, the guy she was trying to get fired is a recognized expert and received more employee recognition for his work from the decent white and, black NGHS employees in 90 days than what Kim had received in her entire career at NGHS and she still demanded he be fired anyway.“
“Now that the executive director’s gone under mysterious conditions. I have $100 that says they ‘manage him out’ next” said another of the 13, and everyone agreed. Another current NGHS manager stated “I’ve had three white employees complain about Kim’s racism but they were too scared to say anything because they know that she’s attached to HR and Tymchuk. It’s sick!”
Another employee stated “Three of us worked with Kim before she got to that team and she has a reputation for being ugly and aggressive with the full support of NGHS leadership.” The collective group agreed about an agenda to damage the reputation and careers of blacks and Latinos at NGHS and place real ceilings on them. We were given access to a treasure trove of records and over the last 4-year period, there appears to be a disturbing trend against minorities, black employees in particular.
A final current employee from NGHS’s Operational Excellence team said “If the public donors found out how poorly they treat black people here, I wonder if they would continue to give and support so much. Same with all of the community programs and civic leaders. It needs to be brought out and people need to be held accountable. Just look at how many black NGHS employees come and go in comparison to the other employees per capita. It will tell you everything you need to know about how much they hate black people and discriminate against them at NGHS” she said.
VH2 tried to contact NGHS staff and leaders at the center of some of the allegations to include Robin Daniel, Kimberly Fox, Melissa Tymchuk, Tiffany Farris and the CEO Carrol Burrell but there’s been no response. We’re awaiting responses from some of the other alleged victims at the time of the writing. VH2 has been contacted by more employees and may provide more information on these allegations soon. Stay tuned.