Former U.Va. employee protests her firing
March 27, 2007
Ongoing controversy at the University of Virginia over the firing of former Human Resources Senior Recruiter Dena Bowers continues with a federal judge’s ruling for another trial regarding whether or not she had enough time to defend herself prior to her dismissal.
p. Bowers was fired from her position in Nov. 2005 over an e-mail she sent to a co-worker from her university e-mail account about an issue that did not represent the views of the university.
p. Bowers attached documents and charts Oct. 11, 2005, from an NAACP meeting she had attended the previous night to an e-mail sent to a fellow employee and member who had missed the meeting.
p. The documents criticized proposed state legislation on the University Medical Center’s pay scale.
p. The co-worker then forwarded the e-mail to hundreds of people with a mistaken note saying that Bowers had prepared the documents.
p. Bowers was then fired on the grounds that she had used her “university title” to distribute documents that did not represent the university’s view.
p. Her electronic signature on the e-mail caused this problem, because it misled people to think she was representing the university.
p. Bowers also refused to identify the source of the documents, and the judge ruled that she was justified in this. Bowers claimed that her First Amendment rights were violated because she protested her firing, which she also felt was wrongful.
p. Judge Norman K. Moon of the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville presided over the case, which took place last Friday.
p. He ignored the issue of her firing because it is a state employment law issue. Moon instead investigated whether Bowers’ constitutional rights were violated.
p. He ended up dismissing Bowers’ First Amendment claims, finding that the officials who fired her at U.Va. did not violate her First Amendment rights.
p. Bowers also claimed that her right of due process was violated, and that she did not have enough time to defend herself before she was fired.
p. Moon denied the due process claim, but he gave the opportunity for a trial to determine whether Bowers was given a chance to speak at the meeting in which she was fired.
p. Bower’s lawyer said that Bowers is not satisfied with the ruling concerning her amendments rights and plans to appeal.
p. However, according to Legal Director of the National Workrights Institute Jeremy Gruber in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Employees rarely, if ever, succeed if they send something on the employer’s e-mail system.”