A Federal Appeals Court in Cincinnati, Ohio has upheld the University of Toledo’s 2008 termination of Crystal Dixon. Ms. Dixon, a high level HR Administrator at the University was fired for expressing her opinion in the Toledo Free Press.
It all started with a letter to the editor. Ms. Dixon’s response upset a number of people when she argued that “gay and lesbian individuals are not civil rights victims because they have the ability to choose a homosexual lifestyle.”
Now in most situations, Ms. Dixon might be revered or hated for what she said. But in this situation, Ms. Dixon was terminated from her position as Interim Associate Vice President of Human Resources. Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the President of the University, made his own statement to the Toledo Free Press
The University of Toledo welcomes, supports and places value upon persons of every variety. Disability, race, age or sexual orientation are not included in any decision making process nor the evaluation of worth of any individual at this university. To the extent that appearances may exist which are contrary to this value statement, we will continue to do everything in our power to align all of our actions every day with the value system discussed.
We will be taking certain internal actions in this instance to more fully align our utterances and actions with this value system.
The argument here is whether or not Ms. Dixon wrote the letter as a private citizen and did not identify herself with the university and in doing so, the University violated her right to free speech. However, per the Toledo Blade
Dixon did not put her position with the university with her signature; however, after her signature she wrote, “If you need information about my occupation, etc., it is as follows: Associate Vice President for Human Resources, University of Toledo, Elder/Minister, End Time Christian Fellowship, Toledo, Ohio.”
This reasoning runs down a really slippery slope. On one hand, Ms. Dixon’s comments are homophobic and hateful. On the other, if she wrote her commentary as a private citizen, was terminating her employment the answer?
Either way, I truly believe that those in HR need to hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to treating all employees equally, even if their religious/other beliefs teach them otherwise. We write the policies that affect employees, we maintain the culture of the environment and we work hard to make sure that employees are treated with dignity at all times. Anything less is reprehensible. And if Ms. Dixon did truly represent herself as an employee of the University while writing her “editorial”, then her actions were beyond reprehensible.
And it seems that the 3 Member Panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court agree,
“[Crystal Dixon] contradicted the very policies she was charged with creating, promoting, and enforcing, and cannot be excused as merely a statement of her own views as a private citizen.”
The case doc can be found here.