SLRC TO REPRESENT FIRED TENNESEE EMPLOYEE
The Southern Legal Resource Center
eU P D A T E
Thursday, October 11, 2007
MEMPHIS, TN – A counselor at a Memphis psychiatric hospital who was abruptly fired for refusing to remove Confederate license tags from his vehicle has retained the SLRC to act in a damages suit against his employer.
Paul McClaren had been a counselor at Compass Intervention Center, a residential treatment facility for young people, for ten years, all during which time he had displayed a Confederate flag license tag on his vehicle. A member of the Sons of Confederate veterans, he obtained a state-issued SCV license tag when they became available several years ago. His tags had never caused any comment or incident. But on October 1 he received an internal letter from the hospital’s CEO, Nahon McPherson, demanding that he remove his car from hospital property as long as the tags were on it. Before he could respond, McClaren began receiving “corrective action notices”, at the rate of one a day, threatening him with termination. Employees are expected to sign these forms, indicating that they have accepted “counseling”. McClaren refused to sign.
In a personal interview last Friday, McClaren asked McPherson, “Do you want me to clean out my desk?” According to McClaren, McPherson said no and advised him to “think about” his position over the weekend. But when McClaren came to work on Monday, he says he was met by McPherson and the newly hired human resources director and was terminated then and there, without notice or severance compensation of any kind.
According to McClaren, McPherson told him, “You can stop this [the termination process] right now.” McClaren replied, “So can you.”
The SLRC has said that McPherson’s suit will probably be brought as a reverse discrimination action under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. McClaren has reported his case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Memphis attorney Jack Smith will act as local counsel.
FLORIDA COMPANY SEIZES EMPLOYEE’S COTTON BLOSSOM
CLEARWATER, FL – A supervisor at a Florida ice cream plant has asked the SLRC to investigate the confiscation by company officials of a stalk of cotton he brought to work to show fellow employees.
The employee, who works at a Good Humor/Breyers plant in Clearwater, says he picked the single stalk of cotton on his way back from a family reunion in Georgia and brought it to work to show his colleagues, many of whom had never seen an actual cotton boll. He placed the cotton on his desk, left his work station and returned to find the cotton gone. A company human resources officer told him it had been removed because it “might cause disruption.”
“It was just an object, a boll of cotton,” the employee said. “I brought it to show around because to me it’s pretty. That was the only motive.”
The employee says he feels the company’s action was arbitrary and unwarranted, undermined his supervisory position, and casts an unfavorable light on his record as an employee, without foundation. He is appealing through company channels while the investigation goes forward.
SLRC SAYS HARDWICK LOWER COURT “ABUSED DISCRETION”
In a hard-hitting reply brief filed with the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the SLRC has accused the court of original jurisdiction in the case of Hardwick vs. Heyward, the case challenging a South Carolina school system’s ban on Confederate symbols. The plaintiffs asked the lower court to grant a temporary restraining order, which would have had the effect of canceling the ban, and the court refused. The case has now been appealed to the Fourth Circuit, where it is expected to be heard later this fall.
The brief, authored by SLRC Chief Trial Counsel Kirk D. Lyons, says the school’s attorneys “hope to convince this court that, in terms of race relations and the Confederate flag, it is always 1950 at Latta High School” and adds, “In this fantastical world [the school board] would have the court believe that students … cannot tell the difference between a young lady’s peaceful and inoffensive display of a venerated ancestral icon and some mouthy, vulgar punk … “ Lyons, in his brief, goes on to say, “The [original] court … has unfortunately aided Appellees [the school board] in their attempts to circumvent the First Amendment … ignoring the substantial record [of non-disruption] prepared by Appellants [the student and her family]. It is unlikely that a better example of abuse of the [lower] Court’s discretion can be found,” the brief says.
The brief points out that there was no disruption caused by the wearing of Confederate-themed clothing at the school, whose student body is more than fifty per cent black, even though school officials used fear of such disruption to justify their ban. “The students at Latta High School have defied all the conventional wisdom on race and the Confederate Battle Flag by showing that they can be supportive and tolerant of a symbol that the pundits claim offends all African-Americans … [they] have shown, after three years of nonviolent, non-disruptive struggle with the administration over this issue that they deserve liberty. Give it to them,” the brief concludes.
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