CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Teamwork is a core value listed on the Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Healthcare facility. The center at 224 Great Bridge Boulevard is where residents turn to when they are in need of mental health care, treatment for drug addiction, and other issues.
According to new employee, Veneeca Neal, on September 28 a racist GIF [a short video clip] was shared during a Teams meeting attended by nine employees. Teams is a Microsoft Outlook software system that allows employees to participate in virtual meetings. Neal told 10 On Your Side that seven of the employees who attended the virtual meeting are Black and two are White.
“When we [the Black employees] looked at it, it was a video clip of some black chimpanzees sitting in a car and it was saying ‘crazy as a Jeep full of chimps’.” It [the software system] dinged again and the response to that was Ernie [Muppets character from Sesame Street] throwing his thumbs up.
Neal said the White employee who sent the Ernie GIF offered an explanation.
“She was like ‘that wasn’t supposed to go to y’all.'”
Regina Mobley: Are you are you saying the seven people who are Black were not supposed to get that?
Veneeca Neal: We were not supposed to receive that image at all.
Neal says since then, the workplace has turned hostile.
“I need to talk to the news and let this be known because I fear for my safety and my co-workers’ safety. I don’t want to see another Walmart incident or possibly another Virginia Beach incident because it is racial and it is targeted.
Neal also talked to Bilal Muhammad, who is the founder of Stop the Violence Team.
In an interview, Muhammad told 10 On Your Side Chesapeake shouldn’t tackle a problem after a situation occurs; it needs to address the issue now.
Community activist Earl Lewis expressed concerns about the climate in city government.
“If they can do that and feel free about that what are they really doing in the background in city government,” said Lewis.
10 On Your Side spoke to two other CIBH employees who said they received the chimpanzee and Ernie GIFs. Both women corroborated Neal’s description of the GIF incident and they also described the work environment as “hostile” and “toxic.” One woman, who did not want her identity revealed, expressed concerns of reprisals.
Neal told 10 On Your Side the woman who sent the chimpanzee video resigned and the entire matter is under investigation.
10 On Your Side reached out to two city council members who said they were unaware of the GIF incident. At this writing, there has been no response from City Hall.