ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- The Georgia Department of Public Health is being accused of discrimination.

A complaint was filed with Office of Inspector General on behalf of at least 10 black epidemiologists employed with the agency alleges they were excluded from the core COVID-19 response team, despite having what they called equal or better qualifications.

According to the complaint, Black employees at the DPH were not kept abreast in any way, no phone calls, no strategy meetings, not even on emails.

“I was saddened and disappointed, but I can say I wasn’t surprised,” said attorney CK Hoffler after reading the complaint filed Thursday. “This is discrimination point blank. You’ve got qualified African-American epidemiologists who need to be on the team, and they’re seeking epidemiologist not currently within the department. It’s not just that they’re African Americans, they’re highly qualified and they do bring insight as it relates to African Americans because they have been in that space. They have done research in that space,” Hoffler went on.

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed more than 80 percent of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Georgia in March were African Americans.

Despite the glaring disparity, the complaint alleges Blacks were not considered when selecting how the state would respond. According to the document, most of the black epidemiologists on the complaint have 10 years of experience with DPH, yet the agency hired two contractors who have not worked with for DPH for three to four years.

Some on the team even have fewer years managing outbreaks within Georgia, while others had none or less expertise in airborne infectious disease when compared to their black counterpart. A Fellow with less than two years experience was also placed on the core COVID-19 response team.

“It’s a slap in the face to not even invite African American epidemiologists who are highly qualified and are eager to serve at the table” said Hoffler.

In response, the Georgia Department of Public Health sent CBS46 the following statement:

“Because this complaint has been sent to the Georgia Inspector General for review, we will not be providing comment at this time.”

CBS46 also reached out to the spokesperson for the black epidemiologists on the complaint. None were willing to speak on camera out of fear of retaliation. As for Hoffler, she’s calling for change.

“We are right now at a point in our history where there are protests every day, people are protesting disparities, racial disparities and the Georgia Department of health is doing the exact thing that people are in the streets protesting.”

Copyright 2020 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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