(CBS DETROIT) - An Ann Arbor woman is suing the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, claiming workplace discrimination.
Dena Leth filed the federal lawsuit, saying she endured three years of a toxic work environment while working in the VA's public safety division. Leth said she faced continuous race and gender-based hostility from supervisors and co-workers, leaving her feeling powerless and undervalued.
"I'm standing here not only for myself, but for all women, and anyone who feels marginalized," said Leth at a press conference at her lawyer's office. "This is a situation where I don't want to be hushed. I asked God to turn anger into advocacy, and that's exactly why I'm standing up to advocate for others."
Leth said she was the only female officer in her department when she worked as a criminal investigator for VA in Ann Arbor from 2018 to 2021.
Before she worked there, she worked in the Detroit Police Department for 23 years. She was used to male-dominated fields but said the treatment at the VA was becoming discrimination, sabotage, and violated her civil rights.
"The pettiness became more aggressive," she said.
The lawsuit claims Leth's co-workers openly questioned her qualifications, would physically block her from doing her job, and would attempt to intimidate her. Leth's lawyer said she spoke up to her management, but that resulted in retaliation.
"You've got these male officers who feel as if she's not one of the good ol' boys. She doesn't look like us, she doesn't feel like us, she doesn't act like us. and we don't want her around, we don't respect anything she has to say, and we won't respect it," said attorney Dionne Webster-Cox.
Webster-Cox said they believe she was treated poorly because she is a black woman.
"I'm not against men," said Webster-Cox. "I want us all to get along. But don't pick on the only woman working there and say he's the problem."
Leth filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and received a "right to sue" letter. The lawsuit filed is against Lt. James Victorian and Officer Shane Haynes, and the Secretary of Veteran Affairs Denis R. McDonough.
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