In July of 2002 Robb Carney was on top of the world. He had a house, a great boyfriend and had just been promoted to a supervisor position at the University of Utah?s School of Medicine. He moved from his downtown office up to the campus in a small room with four other people ? now his employees.
What he didn?t know at the time was that move would cost him thousands of dollars, land him in jail and make his life a living hell for six years.
All because Carney is openly gay.
Carney was under the impression that the university had a policy that prohibited discrimination against an employee because of their sexual orientation. He was right. In 1991 the University of Utah Board of Trustees added the tem ?sexual orientation? to its faculty and student code of conduct after ten months of consideration by 13 committees. Outgoing president Chase Peterson suggested the change.
?The University of Utah is fully committed to affirmative action and to its policies of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in all programs, activities, and employment with regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, status as a person with a disability, religion, sexual orientation, and status as a veteran or disabled veteran.?
But after a telephone conversation with his boyfriend, Carney signed off with ?I love you.? That drew a complaint against him by one of his female employees for creating a ?hostile work environment.?
Rather than come to Carney?s aid, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology Administrative Director Erika Lindley drafted a statement to be signed by Carney stating he would no longer express his love for his partner in front of other employees. It was a first and final warning not to be openly gay in the workplace.
Carney refused to sign.
Two weeks later, Carney came into work and was directed to the director?s office. Child porn had been found on his computer. He was immediately fired.
He had been in his position for 37 days.
Carney filed for unemployment benefits through the state of Utah and was denied because he had been fired. He challenged the ruling, stating that he was fired even though he did nothing wrong. We said that the images found on his computer were the result of pop-up windows or a virus; he had not actively sought any kind of child porn imagery.
The university?s technical department ran a check of the computer and determined that, indeed, at least four of the five images found were the result of pop-up windows.
?The record supports the conclusion that there was no culpable event? that brought child pornography to Carney?s work computer.
Carney won his right to receive unemployment benefits.
But he had already found a new job ? at the University of Utah in another department. He was then fired from that job since, because he had been fired by the U, he was ineligible to be rehired. The left hand wasn?t aware of what the right had was doing.
He was unemployed for over a year.
But that?s just the beginning of Carney?s woes. The next five years are a whole ?nother story. We?ll bring that to you next issue.
To be continued…