Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Should College HR Official Be Fired for Opinion on Homosexuality?

A human resources officer at the University of Toledo has lost her job because she commented in a newspaper that she "questioned whether homosexuality is a civil rights issue". Should she have been fired for stating her opinion? I don't think so. It seems to me that this is a "liberal" reaction to the issue and that, therefore, liberals are not as open minded as I thought.

I don't want to detract from the excellent conversation that is going on here about conservative mind-numbed robots, but I came across another story today that has me questioning the

...it seems when liberals come across any of their sacred cows...they will brook no dissent.

original premise of that article--that liberals are more open minded than conservatives. In the case of a University of Toledo human resources officer, it seems when liberals come across any of their sacred cows--in this example, homosexuality--they will brook no dissent. Her attorney said that
...the university had offered Dixon "another position, in a different part of the university, not in human resources" because she had argued in her editorial that sexual orientation is not an immutable characteristic like race or sex and should not be afforded the same protection under civil rights laws.

"She said no, that's when she was fired," Rooney said. "We are going to do everything we can within the law to try to show that the firing was improper and potentially illegal."
Admittedly, Toledo is offering the fired employee another job in a different department. At this point she doesn't seem to want to take the new job offer--she wants her old job back. That's ultimately why she was fired. I think she should get her job back.

Was it improper? Was it illegal? What is your opinion?




35 comments:

  1. Links? I need more info before I can answer.

    Was her opinion stated as a Human Resources representative of the college? What is the college's official policy toward discrimination based on sexual orientation?

    Was it illegal? I highly doubt it. Improper? Probably. Deserving of reprimand? Most likely. Losing her job? Debatable, depending on the circumstances. My gut feeling is that she isn't cut out to be a Human Resources official and that if she declined to accept another position, then firing her was probably the correct course of action.

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  2. Here's a link that gives a little more detail.

    Interestingly, she is a black woman who says, in part

    I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are ‘civil rights victims.' Here's why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a black woman. I am genetically and biologically a black woman … Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle...

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  3. Okay, so I've read the articles in question, including the UT President's response.

    The University has policies in place to hopefully prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. Dixon didn't present herself as being affiliated with the University; however, according to the President, ". . . it is common knowledge that Crystal Dixon is associate vice president for Human Resources at the University of Toledo . . ." As this is the case, Dixon has a responsibility to uphold the values of the University, especially when speaking publicly of things directly related to the University's HR policies. After her commentary was published it could be reasonably assumed that she would not be unbiased when dealing with GLBT people and issues in the future. Her ability to do her present job had been compromised. Because of this, I think my initial reaction was probably correct. Dixon isn't cut out for Human Resources, at least not at an institution such as UT (maybe Liberty should hire her). Since she wasn't willing to accept another position her termination was probably warranted.

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  4. Frank,
    Regarding the topic of your other thread today, mindless conservatives, I'm wondering how much "thought" you gave this post or did you let CNS "News" do the thinking for you? ;)

    Seriously though, you make note of the fact that she wouldn't accept another position, but then you still say she should get her job back. Why? What claim does she have to her position in HR?

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  5. I didn't let CNS News do my thinking for me. I think Dixon should not have been let go, because she is entitled to her opinion. More importantly, her opinion is only partially contrary to the University's position, because some people (Medical U of Ohio students) don't get domestic partner benefits, so she's entirely within her rights to help to clarify the policy.

    Which makes it all the worse that they fired her.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. But that's not really what she was doing. She was effectively saying that GLBT people didn't deserve to be treated equally simply because, in her opinion, they can change who they are while she can't.

    It is my opinion that her opinions greatly diminish her capacity to carry out her duties as an HR representative at UT, especially in light of UT's anti-discriminatory policies and values system. What is your opinion about that? Shouldn't UT have the right to fire someone they believe cannot effectively carry out the requirements of the job?

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  8. The liberal position is that people should be treated the same regardless of sexual orientation. As a general rule, I would agree with your opinion, it is ethically wrong to fire someone because of their opinion. Her particular job position makes this much more tricky. I would be skeptical about whether someone who openly promoted an Aryan Nationalist perspective could fairly do human resources work in an organization which valued diversity. I can see why some might see a parallel.

    As to whether or not people chose their sexual orientation, I'm much less convinced than this woman is. But that is a separate can of worms.

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  9. Derek,

    I agree with your Aryan nation example. It is clear that they couldn't still perform their job correctly. But...

    Don,

    It is far from certain whether Dixon's opinion affected her ability to perform her job correctly (not taking into consideration that Toledo was bein discriminatory in the way that it applied the benefits in question, anyway). At this point I think it is a clear case of punishing someone because of their beliefs.

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  10. UT's President has already clarified that they are working to equalize the benefits offered between campuses at the school. That's a non-issue as far as I'm concerned.

    I'm interested about your take on Jeffrey Nielsen's "not being rehired" at BYU. I realize the situations aren't exactly alike, but they are similar enough to compare.

    I'll be gone for a while, but I'll check back later this evening.

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  11. The Jeffrey Nielsen controversy "concluded" a few days before I returned from Iraq and about a month before I returned to work at BYU. So far I've found this article on DesNews.com, but I generally agree with him that

    "Unquestioning acquiescence and blind loyalty to leaders in positions of power over human beings have no place in any institution of higher learning that values the pursuit of truth and search for justice," the letter stated. "And in my mind, what is philosophy but the quest for truth and justice."

    Based on what little I know about it so far, I don't think he should have been let go. If this is the ONLY thing that precipitated his being let go (he was a term-to-term hiree), I think the decision was a bit rash. It was the department that let him go, and I wonder if the BYU administration or LDS church leadership ever got involved in it.

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  12. Don, just as institutions which value diversity might well be concerned about employing someone whose beliefs might conflict with that value, institutions which value conformity, blind faith and a lack of rational thought are within their rights to decline to extend the employment of someone whose beliefs conflict with those values.
    ;)

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  13. Derek,

    I wholeheartedly agree. While I don't agree with BYU's decision to let Nielsen go I realize that they had the right to do so. He publicly declared his opinion as contrary to that of his employer and did so while representing himself as their employee.

    While Dixon did not expressly represent herself as an employee of UT, it seems that she is well known in the community so she should have assumed that her views would more than likely be attached to the University. She was out of bounds in her role as the VP of Human Resources at UT and as far as I can tell, UT had every right to remove her from that position.

    Frank, you might not like the fact that UT terminated Dixon's employment, just as I don't like the fact that Nielsen was let go, but that doesn't mean UT wasn't justified in doing it. I think the people quoted in the CNS News article are stretching when they say they're going to do everything they can to show that the firing was improper and possibly illegal. It sounds to me like they're trying to stir up a little controversy just to make a political point.

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  14. In my humble opinion... I think the University did the right thing. I think they were probably justified in firing her at first, but were nice enough to offer alternative employment.

    From a purely legal standpoint, to leave her in a position of authority in HR, would be a huge liability to the University, should a law-suit ever be filed dealing with descrimination based on sexual orientation.

    It would be interesting to know what solution her attorney is seeking... A large settlement always seems to be a good reason to buck the system...

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  15. Don and Derek,

    I agree with you from a legal standpoint. Toledo had the legal right to fire Dixon, and BYU had the legal right not to renew Nielsen's contract.

    My reasoning, however, is that both sides need to lighten up a bit. Back to the main topic (restated): If the liberals at Toledo really did celebrate diversity, they would do more than just cope with having Dixon on their HR staff. (And BYU shouldn't feel so threatened by someone who has a different perspective on homosexuality.)

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  16. The problem is that the lady in question works in HR. I am currently assigned to work with a very large HR department, and several times have been told that I need to keep my nose extra clean because of duties of HR.

    In UT's case, the HR department should be the first line of defense that a person can go to when they feel they have been discriminated against based on sexual orientation. By keeping her employed, they were risking losing credibility in claiming to be diverse.

    The BYU professor is not an exact comparison, because he was not in a position to effect policy or clarify LDS doctrine. I think his firing is a black eye on the face of BYU.

    For UT, I think their actions show commitment to their principles, but also concern for an employee, but offering to move her to another department.

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  17. Koda is right. UT not only upheld their respect for diversity by not only by alleviating any conflicts about diversity in their HR staff, but by doing their best to ensure the employment of the person in question in another capacity (ie, respecting her right to hold another view and still be employed by the library).

    BYU is an entirely different case not only because Nielsen was not in a position to effect Church policy, but because BYU cannot be accused of embracing diversity;) But as Nielsen ended up in a far better situation (ie, Westminster College), he can't be too frustrated.

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  18. UK,

    Just because Dixon said that she felt that that homosexuals shouldn't get special treatment doesn't mean that she would discriminate against them based on their sexual orientation. I don't know that there was any indication that she had discriminated against any homosexual--she had simply expressed her opinion. And the Torquemadas at Toledo said, "Oh no! We can't have anyone believing that!!"

    Now if she started mocking them because of their sexual orientation, that would be a completely different thing. So far, though, she had simply made a statement of fact, that homosexuality cannot be considered as a civil rights issue because people are not born that way.

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  19. I would agree, and suspect that she would probably handle any case where discrimination was alleged with professionalism...

    That said however, if a suit were to be brought against the school for alleged discrimination on basis of sexual orientation, and she was involved in any perceived mishandling of the matter, those public comments would not look good in front of a jury. I don't think its a matter of intolerance on the administrations part, it's more of a liability management issue. Intolerance would have gotten her fired, not transferred.

    Sure a person may not be born a homosexual (although I think the jury is still out on this one) but I think it's in the same set of rights as religious beliefs. It's a personal choice or preference.

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  20. Interesting, so now Dixon's opinion is a statement of fact? I guess if that were true then your argument might be stronger. But I don't think this argument really rests on whether being gay is a choice or not, do you?

    As it stands, I'll continue to agree with Derek and UK. Dixon's ability to work in the Human Resources department of an institution that values diversity, including non-discriminatory policies based on sexual orientation, has been greatly compromised. Not because of any actual discrimination on her part, but because those who she serves can reasonably be expected to have lost faith in her ability to be objective when dealing with GLBT people and issues. You simply can't have your VP of Human Resources speaking out in public about how gay people don't deserve equality based on their orientation when it's part of her job to make sure they are treated equally, regardless of their orientation.

    Your characterization that they fired her because of her beliefs is incorrect. She was welcome to continue her employment at the University, just not in the HR department. I think it's pretty clear that she wasn't fired for her beliefs but rather for her actions, which were contrary to the values of diversity she was charged with upholding.

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  21. Okay, Don, I'll restate it. They asked her to take another job because of her beliefs. When she didn't want to, they fired her.

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  22. It would appear to me that the request to take another position was not because of her beliefs, but rather that she expressed her opinion in a public forum.

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  23. Frank,
    Maybe a comparison can be made that will help you understand the point UK, Derek and I are trying to make.

    When you were in the Army would it have been okay if you had publicly dismissed the Bush admin's rationalizations for the Iraq war? Would it have been okay if the 2nd in command (similar to a VP, no?) had done so?

    This is pretty much what Dixon did. She publicly took a position that was contrary to that of the HR department at UT. They offered her another job, which is much more generous than the Army would have been, I assume. When she declined, UT really had no choice but to terminate her employment.

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  24. On a completely unrelated topic...

    Excellent job on topics this week!

    My employer would no doubt, not be as pleased with the amount of time I've spent following them, but I've had a thoroughly enjoyable time!

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  25. Don,

    I see the comparison, although I think it's only a moderately good one. There's a large difference between speaking against a president in a time of war vs. speaking against a school's policy.

    Just like I think BYU overreacted in the case of Jeffrey Nielsen, I think Toledo overreacted. (Of course I'm making the supposition that Dixon wasn't carrying around a holier-than-thou attitude at work.)

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  26. What could UT have done differently? How could concerns that Dixon would open them up to future lawsuits be assuaged? How could UT assure the GLBT community at the University that Dixon's personal opinions weren't affecting her work as the VP of Human Resources? I don't think they could, but I'm open to anything you might propose.

    I think the conservative blowback on this issue is a farce. I think they know good and well this isn't going to go anywhere legally and they just wanted to make a stink about it so they could cry about the "gay agenda" and "liberals" in the media. I think if you follow this story to its conclusion you'll see that it will quietly go away and nothing will become of any threatened lawsuits. Dixon wasn't fired for her beliefs; she was fired because she could no longer do the job. It happens every day.

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  27. I think today that groups that claim to be highly tolerant are very often highly intolerant of anyone with a differing view point. Our society seems to have a very strong "With us or against us" type mentality that fuels this type of thinking.

    Perhaps on the outset this situation may have appeared to be just another case of this, but I think UT made the right call in the end.

    I would suspect that the lady in question is likely the one who broke the story, and the idea of being fired for her opinion would be much more advantageous to her case. In many ways she committed career suicide by publicly sharing her opinion. Pursuing the issue is only going to make it worse for her if she is ever to get another job in an HR position.

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  28. Don,

    I did not read that Toledo was afraid of lawsuits.

    Also, I'm not concerned with the legality of it--just the "should they have done it."

    If I did some more research I might just come to the same conclusion as you, UK, and Derek.

    UK,

    It would be interesting to see if Dixon was the one to break the story for personal gain. That would change my mind a lot.

    She might not have any trouble applying for an HR job at BYU!!

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  29. Frank,
    I think it was UK who first mentioned the possibility that UT was limiting exposure to a potential lawsuit by removing Dixon from her position in HR. I happen to think that sounds like a highly plausible and logical explanation.

    Also, I understand your position that they shouldn't have fired Dixon. I'm wondering if you could provide some reasoning as to why you feel that way. Can you explain away the obvious, at least to me, reasons why they should have and were therefore correct in doing so? Can you answer any of the questions I posed in my last comment?

    I don't mean to belabor the point, I just feel like we're kind of spinning in circles here.

    Thanks.

    BTW, I agree, she'd probably have no problem getting hired in BYU's HR department (or Liberty's as I implied earlier.)

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  30. I want to clarify that I'm not saying UT should have fired Dixon. I don't know enough to judge, don't want to spend the time ferreting out the information necessary to make that judgment, and doubt I could get to the entire truth if I wanted to. What I meant to suggest is that, given Dixon's position in HR, I can see some legitimacy to UT's concerns. UT may very well have overreacted--and in fact with the limited information I've seen, I'd be inclined to agree on that point. But that does not change the fact that there is a legitimate concern in the specifics of the situation, and so this is hardly an obvious example of liberal intolerance or hypocrisy as you seemed to suggest in the original post.

    And you're right Frank; the legality of the firings is really beside the point.

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  31. Derek,

    I will agree with you on that--I can see some legitimacy to UT's concerns.

    Don,

    Legal exposure might be plausible. But until it seems more than plausible, I think UT and Dixon could have worked together in a respectable and respectful manner.

    To answer your main question from your previous comment:

    How could UT assure the GLBT community at the University that Dixon's personal opinions weren't affecting her work as the VP of Human Resources?

    Answer: By them promising to reassign her/fire her if her actions work in opposition to UT's policy. So far, she had only expressed her beliefs. Maybe I'm being pollyannaish in Dixon's favor, but as a general rule, I think it's possible to disagree with something and still have enough integrity to support it because it is policy.

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  32. By the way, here's a similar controversy in England. Should this person be fired as well for not wanting to officiate at homosexual marriages? In my opinion, the beliefs of the person could be accommodated by only asking them to preside at heterosexual marriages.

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  33. I think this situation is different...

    From a liability stand point, her desire not to perform the marriages isn't putting the governmental body in any risk of liability. She's not descriminating against a particular group, she's exercising her individual rights.

    In this case, I think the government body would be liable if they fired her over this.

    I have to run, but would be happy to expand on that...

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  34. That's a stickier situation. It's similar to the objections many pharmacists have to dispensing birth control, especially the morning after pill. My opinion is that as long as reasonable accomodations are made to implement the law as it was designed (by providing for another clerk to perform the services requested) then the city clerk's personal wishes should be respected. If she's the only city clerk in town then I'd say she has to carry out her duties.

    That being said, my opinion is grounded in "grandfathering" the clerk in since she was already employed and can still perform all of her other duties as city clerk. Going forward, I would have no problem with the city council making it a requirement of the job to officiate at same-sex ceremonies.

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  35. Re: The England story.

    This provides a good example of why government should not be involved in marriage. This woman should not be required to act against her moral principles regarding marriage. An organized religion has the right to require that its officials act in accordance to the policies of that faith, performing marriages (or not) as those policies dictate. Officials challenging those policies should be removed. Any LDS bishop, for example, who wants to perform homosexual marriage should be removed. But government should not be in a position to make that decision.

    Of course, once again, we don't know enough about this specific situation to say anything definitively about the situation. If this woman was being antagonistic, trying to turn homosexual couples away rather than allowing other clerks to step in, her employers may have been justified. If she was merely asking for the right to stand aside and let another clerk take over, and her employers were demanding that she actually perform a task she was morally opposed to, then the council was even more wrong.

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