Fired Mount de Sales band director files EEOC claim

Telegraph staffJune 24, 2014 

Flint_Dollar

Flint Dollar, seen here at his Milledgeville church, was fired May 21 from Mount de Sales Academy.

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Fired Mount de Sales Academy band director Flint Dollar has filed a gender discrimination claim with the agency that enforces laws against workplace bias.

In the claim, Dollar alleges that he signed a new contract May 1 to teach at the Catholic school for the 2014-2015 term. He was fired May 21.

Dollar contends the school discriminated against him because he didn’t conform to traditional gender stereotypes, said his attorney, Charles E. Cox.

“Our belief is that one of the traditional gender stereotypes is that men marry women. He violated that gender stereotype and he was fired because of it,” Cox said.

Cox said gender discrimination is a type of sexual discrimination. Sexual orientation is not currently protected under federal law, he said.

The school fired Dollar, an openly gay man, on grounds that his intention to marry his partner constituted a violation of the church doctrine of marriage. Mount de Sales is run by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy.

School President David Held said he hadn’t heard of the filing with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as of Tuesday afternoon.

“When we get that report, I’ll make a comment about it,” he said.

On Tuesday, Dollar said he’s been focusing on planning his wedding and trying to find a new job. Though he received several inquiries from schools across the state and from Texas, Dollar hasn’t found a full-time position yet. Dollar and his partner own a home in Milledgeville and have strong ties to the community.

His wedding will take place in Minnesota, which allows same-sex marriage.

“My timeline is shrinking,” he said. “My benefits and paycheck end July 31. Finding a full-time job for a non-certified music teacher, especially in the middle of the summer, is difficult. My professional life is in an upheaval. Not knowing (about a new job) is very scary.”

Dollar said teachers who aren’t retained by a school are usually informed in February or March to give them time to find a new job. Entering the job market in May put him at a disadvantage, he said.

“At this point, I’d have to find something that was vacated unexpectedly.”

The school has known Dollar was gay since his initial interview for his job four years ago.

Mount de Sales’ employment policy says in part: “Mount de Sales Academy is committed to the principles of equal employment opportunities to all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, gender, ancestry, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or any other characteristic or status that is protected by federal, state, or local law.”

In a letter the school released about the firing, however, Held wrote that Dollar wasn’t fired because he is gay, but because same-sex marriage goes against Catholic doctrine.

“Personnel decisions are never easy, and we consider many factors when making such decisions,” the letter read in part. “Teaching ability, knowledge of the subject matter, the ability to communicate with constituents, and the willingness to support the teachings of the Catholic Church are just some of factors considered when making these decisions. Please know that these decisions are never made arbitrarily and are guided always by our mission as a Catholic School.”

Dollar said he informed the school of his decision to marry his partner back in October. At the time, Dollar said, no one from the school raised any objections about his marriage.

The school offered Dollar a one-year contract in early May, which Dollar signed.

Dollar said Held told him that there were no performance-related issues in his dismissal -- that the issue was related only to his marriage.

Dollar said the EEOC investigation could take up to 180 days, but it’s a necessary step in filing a discrimination suit.

He said he believes it’s important to follow through with a discrimination suit against the school.

“Filing with the EEOC, for me, is pretty much saying that it’s not OK to discriminate,” he said. “To terminate without cause is not OK. It shouldn’t be OK in the public or private sector. I need to make that statement, ... and I have to follow through with that statement.”

Soon after the news broke of Dollar’s firing, about 60 parents and students marched around the campus to protest his firing. In addition, three members of the Mount de Sales board of trustees resigned their positions.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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