News Story

Union Claims New Tenure Rules Will Lead to Discrimination Against Sexual Orientation and Pregnancy

State Rep.: 'Total fabrication'

The Michigan Education Association is incorrect when it says a school district could fire unmarried, pregnant teachers, gay teachers, unpopular employees or veteran teachers for less expensive alternatives under proposed tenure reform bills, according to a GOP legislator and a Republican labor attorney.

The MEA made its claims about House Bills 4625, 4627 and 4628 on its website. The bills were considered by a Legislative committee shortly after a teacher in the Swartz Creek school district was ordered by the state to be reinstated despite claims by the district she was “mentally unfit” and “unstable.”

The Flint Journal reports that the legal saga over her fitness to work began after workplace altercations led to a psychological evaluation. This resulted in a recommendation that she not return to the classroom pending treatment, followed by her agreement to a voluntary leave of absence. The leave later became involuntary when the teacher and district disagreed over whether the alleged psychological concerns had been resolved.

State Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, wrote in an email that the MEA has “delved into bigoted wedge politics based on total fabrications. The public is with us. This package signifies a culture change where student growth and performance trump special interests.”

Scott’s office pointed to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as protection from being discriminated against because of pregnancy or childbirth or related issues. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Also, Scott’s office stated that Michigan is one of four states that have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public workplaces.

Tom Fredericks, a labor attorney who served for 10 years with the Office of the State Employer for the State of Michigan, said employer’s actions are governed by state and federal law. Fredericks, vice chair of the Ingham County Republican Party, called the MEA’s claims “unsupported” and “untrue.”

"... teachers, and other employees — both union and non-union — are already protected under Michigan and federal law from unlawful discrimination,” Fredericks wrote in an email.

Nathalie Iden, a spokeswoman for Scott, said in an email the bills state that teachers can’t be let go for political reasons or reasons that are “arbitrary and capricious.” She said “arbitrary and capricious” is the current standard for administrators.

MEA Spokesman Doug Pratt declined to comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.