Workplace discrimination… yes? no? maybe?

After being denied a promotion because of her criticism towards a school policy that prohibits same-sex relationships, all seven members of Gordon’s Faculty Senate decided to resign as a show of discontent towards the school’s President and Provost for disregarding their recommendation.

DeWeese-Boyd, an assistant professor of sociology at Gordon College, has criticized a policy that forbids professors, students, and staff from engaging in homosexual practice on and off campus since 2013. After a unanimous recommendation to promote DeWeese-Boyd to full-time professor by the Faculty Senate of the school, college Provost and President refused to promote her. As of now, the Faculty Senate has not made any comments about the school policy or gay rights. But the decision to resign was intended to show their dissatisfaction towards the management of the school, which tries to limit those who think differently and advocate for equal rights. The school management may be considered as anti-LGBT due to the school’s attempt to avoid a ban on anti-gay discrimination. In 2014, Gordon College President Lindsay along with religious leaders signed a letter addressed to former President Obama asking for the school to be exempt from a federal ban on anti-gay discrimination. This action sparked bad criticism from the campus community, which labeled the letter as discriminatory. The letter also had off campus repercussions which accounted for the loss of management of the city’s Old Town Hall after Salem officials terminated the school’s contract, and the relocation of the  Hamilton-Wenham Regional School’s graduation ceremony off Gordon’s campus.

President Lindsay and religious leaders who signed the letter argued that  the ban “comes at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity, and religious freedom.”

This particular case serves as a case study given the various issues it creates. Although considered discriminatory by some, Gordon College’s policy is not unlawful since it is a Christian private school. The 1st amendment under the Free Exercise clause protects religious beliefs and actions made on behalf of those beliefs. In general, The Christian faith does not accept homosexuality. Therefore, the school policy banning behavior of this kind may be viewed as Christians exercising their religious beliefs and encouraging their fellow members to practice the Christian faith.

ProfessorDeWeese-Boyd filed a formal complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission claiming workplace discrimination. The EEOC ruled in 2012 that Tittle VII of the Civil Right Acts does not permit employment discrimination based on gender identity since it is considered sexual discrimination, and in 2015, it decided that Tittle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not permit sexual orientation discrimination because it is considered a form of sex discrimination.

Denial of promotion based on supportive advocacy of equal rights and gay rights might fall under workplace discrimination. It is absolutely not fair for DeWeese-Boyd to be denied a promotion for thinking differently, which should be viewed as some sort of discrimination. However, the school has not yet fired her for criticizing the school’s policy. DeWeese-Boyd has not made any statements about her sexual orientation or gender identity, nor has she made any comments regarding her religious beliefs. In addition to this, the Faculty Senate has not issued any formal complaint in regards to discrimination, but it has just demonstrated their dissatisfaction toward the school’s management. It will be hard to determine whether or not this case will account for workplace discrimination and to predict the actions that the EEOC will take on this case, if any.

 

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