Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Scott Plans Review Of State Psychiatric Hospital After Allegations Of Racial Harassment

A complaint filed by Ismina Francois in 2016 has put a magnifying glass on working conditions for employees of color at the state-run psychiatric hospital in Berlin.
Jane Lindholm
VPR File
Gov. Phil Scott says an investigative report detailing allegations of racial harassment at a state-run hospital in Berlin, pictured above, has prompted a review of workplace conditions there.

After allegations of racial harassment at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin, Gov. Phil Scott says his administration is reviewing workplace conditions at the state-run facility.

At a press conference Thursday, Scott says he was "shocked" by claims of harassment made by an African-American worker at the hospital.

“We want to make sure that all the facts are as they have been presented,” Scott said. “But … we want to make sure that there’s a safe environment for everyone to work in, and basic human principles about how you treat people.”

An investigation by the Vermont Human Rights Commission into the worker’s claims uncovered the alleged use of racial epithets and racially charged language by some white workers at the hospital, dating back to 2007.

More from VPR: Investigation Finds Evidence Of Widespread Racial Harassment At State-Run Hospital In Berlin

The Vermont Department of Mental Health has acknowledged inappropriate conduct by workers at the hospital.

“The Department has been clear with staff that racial comments are unacceptable in the workplace, even when made out of ignorance,” Assistant Attorney General Melanie Kehne wrote on the department's behalf in a response to the report issued by the Human Rights Commission.

The state, however, says incidents of inappropriate behavior cited in the report do not meet the legal definition of racial harassment or employment discrimination.

“The question is whether these comments were so ‘severe and pervasive’ as to create a racially hostile work environment at VPCH,” the state also wrote in its response to the complaint. “This is a high legal bar - a very different question than employee conduct generally - and the Department respectfully submits that this high legal bar is not supported by the record in this matter.”

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
Latest Stories