Westmoreland Community Colleges removes sexual orientation from non-discrimination language

The Post-Gazette has the story on a recent decision by Westmoreland County Community College to extract two classes from their non-discrimination language. 

Since 2000, Westmoreland County Community College has published notices saying the school will not discriminate against individuals based on various circumstances, including their “sexual orientation” and “union membership.”

But the school now says there is another statement that does not contain those four words and that it is the only one approved as an official policy by college trustees — in a 1998 vote.

So the college has begun the unusual task of striking references to both classes of people from its non-discrimination language, including a statement on the college's Web site.

College President Daniel Obara said yesterday that the decision to delete the words is unrelated to a grievance filed in March on behalf of a gay employee who married in Massachusetts and was denied health insurance for his spouse. However, the president said the school learned of the conflicting language from the college's attorney during an internal meeting called a month ago to discuss the employee's case.

Huh.  From what I'm reading, someone accidentally inserted this language into the policy which then just sort of “caught on” with other publications and documents.  Now that they are aware of the issue, which has been a nonissue for the past 9 years, the College is going to strip people of their protections? In what reality does that make any sense? 

I understand that there is a process to change policy, but wouldn't it make more sense to simply follow that process to bring the actual policy into compliance with established practice?  Wow, that's confusing.  After 9 years, it would be difficult for anti-union/anti-gay forces to have any grounds for predicting the downfall of the College.  No one noticed enough to make a fuss. 

Until someone filed a lawsuit.  Huh.

Mr. Doherty, a WCCC employee for nearly five years, was married last November in North Andover, Mass., where state law recognizes same-sex marriage. After his request for benefits was denied that same month, he appealed, and in March, the Professional Association filed a grievance that is now headed to arbitration.

“We feel it's a just request,” said Mr. Hricik, whose union is a part of the Pennsylvania State Employees Association. “[Mr. Doherty] is legally married. It's not legal in the state of Pennsylvania, but he's legally married.”

Dr. Obara declined to comment on Mr. Doherty's case, citing the grievance proceeding.

Again, this is just a backwards response to discrimination.  Are they afraid that acknowleding the faux policy will strengthen the suit? 

The Post-Gazette reports that 9 out of 14 community colleges across the Commonwealth include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.  That's the kind of imbalance that HB 300 should rectify.

Westmoreland County Community College will not discriminate in its educational programs, activities or employment practices based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, religion, ancestry or any other legally protected classification. Announcement of this policy is in accordance with state law including the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and with federal law, including Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Section 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

One a final note, this is another example of the power of a union/LGBTQ alliance.  The union plans to oppose removing the language:

Michael Hricik, an English professor and president of the WCCC Professional Association, said the union will oppose removal of either class from campus publications.

“We feel both should be included in the policy — especially the area of sexual orientation,” he said. “We checked at many of the other community colleges throughout the state of Pennsylvania and they have [sexual orientation] in there.”

A much more high profile alliance fermented in California as the two forces worked on a boycott of the Manchester Hyatt in San Diego. 

This is a particularly interesting dynamic here in Southwestern Pennsylvania with our breeding ground for socially conservative Democrats and socially conservative blue collar workers. We are also a LGBTQ community with a significant class divide.  I'd be curious to learn more about the labor sentiments of leaders in our community.  I know one of our forefathers from the 1908s and early 1990s was a unionized teacher who was at the helm of generating class conscious protections within the community and his union. We don't have a contemporary “working class gay hero” here in Pittsburgh.

Well, perhaps we just have one coming out of this mess at WCCC. 



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