Morehouse School of Medicine accused of anti-gay firing
A former employee in the registrar’s office at the Morehouse School of Medicine is preparing to file a discrimination complaint with Atlanta’s Human Relations Commission, charging her bosses with firing her because she is a lesbian.
Ashland Johnson, 23, who processed student transcripts and enrollment verification at the Morehouse School of Medicine since July 2005, was fired Aug. 28. Her termination letter from the school’s human resources department alleged her “failure to consistently meet the performance and attendance standards” of her job.
But Johnson said there were no complaints about the quality of her performance until she missed work due to a back injury this past July, during which Johnson’s supervisor discovered an e-mail from her lesbian partner on her computer.
“I came back to work and she told me she accessed my files,” Johnson said of her supervisor, Morehouse School of Medicine Registrar Karen A. Lewis.
“I noticed a difference as soon as I came back,” Johnson continued. “[Lewis] said, ‘I’ve been on your computer, I’ve seen your documents, and I think you would be better-suited to work in another department.’”
Following her return work, Johnson and Lewis traded numerous e-mails and memos, with Johnson repeatedly requesting a transfer to another department and Lewis highlighting what she considered deficiencies in Johnson’s work performance.
The ACLU of Georgia is assisting Johnson as she prepares the paperwork for her complaint with the city of Atlanta, and plans to represent her during a hearing with the Human Relations Commission, said Beth Littrell, associate legal director of the ACLU of Georgia. The Human Relations Commission is a seven-member citizen panel charged with enforcing the city’s anti-bias ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in areas such as employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories.
Johnson is also using internal routes within the Morehouse School of Medicine to appeal her firing, but said she has not been given a timeline for when the appeal will take place.
The Morehouse School of Medicine is a private, historically black two-year medical school that was created within Morehouse College in 1973. Two years later, the Morehouse School of Medicine became an independent institution, and it currently is not affiliated in any way with Morehouse College, according to Gayle Converse, a communications officer for the Morehouse School of Medicine.
Lewis declined to comment on Johnson’s allegations of discrimination.
Outside activities’ prompt dismissal?
Prior to the July incident when Lewis accessed Johnson’s computer, Johnson said the two women “got along very well.” They exchanged Christmas gifts, and Johnson went to see a couple of movies with Lewis’s son, Johnson said.
Despite the friendly relationship, Johnson said she was too fearful to tell Lewis about her sexual orientation.
“I knew to keep it under wraps,” said Johnson, who was aware that Lewis attended a strict Pentecostal church. “One time she made a comment about Hurricane Katrina in front of me — that it was a result of people’s lifestyles.”
Johnson missed two days of work in early July after throwing out her back, and upon returning to work she was locked out of her computer work station and had her office keys taken away, according to memos and e-mails exchanged between Johnson and Lewis.