Reading the thread to my second post on Crystal Dixon, the University of Toledo administrator fired for saying some un-PC things about gay rights on her own time as well as e-mails from readers who had followed the story solidified my opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), indeed to most legislation which would prevent employers from setting their own employment policies.
In the ideal world, a university should be able to set its own such policies and dismiss employees who do not act in a manner consistent with the university’s values. But, this is no ordinary university, it is a branch of the state and thus (in my view) must have standards different from a private university or other enterprise.
That said, some of my critics do raise valuable points. As associate vice president of human resources, her anti-gay bias may have caused her to discriminate against gay employees or candidates for employment. In response, I asked if the university provided any evidence of such discrimination. If she, as a public employee discriminated against gay people, she should be fired, or at minimum transferred to a job where she wouldn’t be making employment decisions.
But, as this commenter to Pam’s House Blend who watched her on TV reported, “The university could find no instance of her being prejudiced against glbt people on the job!” If that’s the case, I stand by my criticism of the university (and remember I’m criticizing the university, not defending Ms. Dixon.)
We should leave the question of determining whether her un-PC thoughts led to discriminatory actions. That question naturally becomes more complicated in public employment when we need to consider a variety of other issues. A public institution works for all of us (and is paid for by all of us); it doesn’t just serve those who have a choice whether to purchase its good and services.
She should not be dismissed for her silly opinions, but should be let go if she has acted in a matter inconsistent with the university policy. It might not be easy determining whether those opinions become action.
It would be better if the institution could address such troubling issues in the manner it sees fit.
Which brings me to my opposition to ENDA. Such legislation would make it ever more difficult for a private company to address such complex issues on its own. Simply put, it deprives the company of the freedom from setting its own employment policies.
If Crystal Dixon worked for a private company, that enterprise would have a valid case for dismissing her because of her viewpoint. But, public institutions must have different standards. They shouldn’t be allowed to evaluate an employee on any criterion other than her ability to do her ob.
Right now, it seems the University of Toledo dismissed Dixons only when university officials read her un-PC Op-Ed. That is clearly a case of viewpoint discrimination. Just as, I believe, a public institution shouldn’t discriminate because of sexual orientation, it shouldn’t discriminate based on political, social or religious viewpoint. No matter how crazy. Just so long as it doesn’t impact on her job performance.