An employee of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King has filed a complaint alleging she was discriminated against on the job by her employer because she is a woman and because she opposed similar discrimination against others.
Amber Nikolai alleges she was demoted at least twice to “less desirable duties and circumstances” at King as retaliation for her reporting that Randy Nitschke, a higher-up at the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, allegedly waged “a campaign of unlawful sexual harassment” against her, according to the discrimination complaint filed this month with the Department of Workplace Development under the state’s Fair Employment Law.
Kathleen Marschman, assistant deputy secretary for Veterans Affairs, declined comment pending the department’s ongoing review of Nikolai’s complaint.
Nikolai’s lawyer, Jeff Scott Olson, in the complaint said Nitschke, who runs the veterans department’s division of veterans homes, sent her “hundreds of text messages that were inappropriately personal and intimate” in 2014.
The complaint also contends Nitschke “threatened to make false reports” about her if she reported his alleged actions — which she nevertheless did in October 2015, prompting an internal investigation by the state Department of Administration. Nikolai says she was never told the investigation results, and Nitschke remained in his job.
In November 2015, Nikolai was “stripped of all supervisory roles and responsibilities,” according to the complaint, and in May 2016 she was given a job that “paid the same … but involved less authority and responsibility.” Nikolai has been on a doctor-approved stress leave since late November 2016. She declined to comment for this story.
Besides the alleged retaliation for her sexual harassment complaint, Olson in an interview said Nikolai also was targeted because she spoke to the media and department authorities about problems she saw at King, which has been under scrutiny for reduced services for veterans, strains on employees and water quality problems.
“She’s paid a big price for standing up for the veterans who have made big sacrifices for their country,” he said, “and I hope we can bring her a measure of justice.”
If an investigation prompted by Nikolai’s latest complaint finds discrimination occurred, she could be eligible for awards including reinstatement and attorney fees.