Fairness WV issues statement on Kanawha County Schools discrimination

CHARLESTON, W.VA. — Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider released the following statement concerning Kim Williams’ employment grievance:

“Kim Williams is an immensely qualified educator and has served Kanawha County Schools for decades. She applied for a job to serve as the principal of South Charleston High School. Not long after, Jim Crawford, a member of the county’s board of education, made it clear to some of his fellow board members that he didn’t want to hire her because she’s a lesbian. He didn’t even care enough to find out how she stacked up against the other candidates. For him, who she loves was enough to disqualify her.

When she interviewed for the position, she received the highest score of any applicant but she didn’t get the job. A man less qualified than her got the job. She appealed this decision to the Public Employees Grievance Board and recently won her case. The board said in an opinion that the hiring process was “unreasonably tainted by arbitrary and capricious actions.” Kim didn’t win this case because she’s a lesbian, she won because she was the most qualified person for the job.

LGBTQ people face employment discrimination too often in West Virginia. Usually, members of our community have no way of protecting themselves because state law ensures that this very kind of discrimination is legal. West Virginia is one of 29 states where it is perfectly legal to fire someone, to evict them or to deny them service at a public place because of who they are or who they love.

We’ve been working for years to get our state lawmakers to adopt the Fairness Act, a bipartisan proposal to ensure no person is discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately this year, a handful of lawmakers admitted they don’t believe discrimination happens in our state. This case proves them wrong.

In a way, Kim Williams was lucky because she had a chance to fight for herself. If it wasn’t for the grievance board and state code that protects her from an unfair hiring process, she would have had no way to fight back. The problem is too many other LGBTQ people work in places where they can’t fight back. Private sector employees can’t bring grievances like this, even when businesses have their own nondiscrimination policies.

All employees should be evaluated based on their merit nothing more, nothing less. Kim Williams’ case proves that discrimination is a serious problem in West Virginia, and it’s time our leaders step up to protect the LGBTQ community.”

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Fairness West Virginia is the statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender West Virginians. Our mission is to ensure LGBT people can be open, honest and safe at home, at work, and in the community. We are open to everyone who believes in fundamental fairness.

Please direct questions to Jake Jarvis, communications manager at jake@fairnesswv.org.