May 20, 2008

Hoopdee do: Woman says she was fired over bumper stickers

Shannon Grossman: has decorated her 1994 Geo with bumper stickers that espouse her social and political sentiments. Grossman said she was fired from a daycare job after the director told her she didn’t like the stickers.Shannon Grossman admitted she may be naïve about how others don’t share her progressive way of seeing the world. But she said she was stunned when she was let go from a job over bumper stickers espousing her politically and socially progressive bent.Grossman, 39, was born near Evansville and grew up in Muhlenberg County, Ky. She moved here last fall to care for her sister, Erin Vu, who has CIDP, the chronic form of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.Grossman has 12- and 17-year-old sons and said she spent most of her adult life as a stay-at-home mother. She has limited job skills, and said attention deficit disorder makes it hard to handle stressful tasks. Since moving here, she has been fired from a dry cleaner for working too slowly and from a charitable telemarketer for low numbers.So she was thrilled when she got on at a Lyndon daycare, she said, because it’s something she thinks she is good at.Grossman drives a 1994 Geo Prizm. She calls it her “hoopdee” and has it decorated how you might any car showing its age: It’s peppered with stickers.Some are silly or idealistic. Others are more pointed.One shows Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld with the caption “Asses of Evil,” a play on Bush’s infamous description of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “Axis of Evil.” Another says, “May the embryo you saved grow up to be gay and proud.”bumper stickers: Shannon Grossman has decorated her 1994 Geo with bumper stickers that espouse her social and political sentiments. Grossman said she was fired from a daycare job after the director told her she didn’t like the stickers.Another, on her trunk near the rear window, spells G-O-P, and elaborates in smaller type: Gay Old Pedophiles, a reference to disgraced  former Florida congressman Mark Foley, who got caught scheming on teenage male congressional pages, and more broadly, to shining lights like Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, the anti-gay hypocrite who pled guilty to disorderly conduct after allegedly soliciting sex in a men’s room at the Minneapolis Airport.Grossman said the GOP sticker covers a rust spot. And she said that sticker and the one referencing the embryo cost her a job she really wanted.Jane Davis has owned and operated Tiny Tots Nursery and Preschool, a private business, since 1977. In an interview there Tuesday morning, she said she asked Grossman to come in for a two-day trial period, to see how things worked out. Davis said that’s customary for prospective new hires; if she decides to retain the employee, she proceeds with an involved packet of paperwork that includes a background check.Davis said she asked the staffer training Grossman how things were going, and the staffer expressed non-specific discomfort. The staffer, who also has a child enrolled at Tiny Tots, later took out the garbage and, after seeing the stickers on Grossman’s car, became quite upset over the word “pedophile.”(Grossman said she interviewed on Thursday, May 8, and reported to work on Monday, May 12. Davis said Grossman worked a full day on Monday and that the incident occurred last Tuesday.)Davis said she concluded then that Grossman didn’t fit in and that she cut her loose midday, with the promise to pay her for time worked. Davis said the staffer could corroborate the story, but she is off on Tuesdays and could not be reached before presstime.Federal employment law forbids discriminating against anyone based on that oft-heard list of eight attributes: race, color, sex, age (40 and over), pregnancy, religion, national origin or disability. In Jefferson County, the Fairness Ordinance amplifies those statutes by adding sexual orientation and gender identity.Grossman is straight; her sister is gay.During the job interview, Grossman told Davis she lives with her sister. In the interview with LEO Tuesday morning, Davis said she assumed the car with the stickers belonged to Grossman’s sister (it doesn’t), and said, “If they’re living with somebody that has something like that on their car, I figure that’s their car, that’s what they believe in. I don’t need anybody (at Tiny Tots) working with anybody like that, for my children’s sake. I probably could handle it.”Edwin Hopson, a partner at Wyatt Tarrant & Combs’ Louisville office who focuses on employment law, said it’s difficult to say whether Grossman has a legal case. The Fairness Ordinance specifically protects individuals, but does not expressly take in associational factors.David Friedman, a Louisville civil rights attorney, said that’s not as clear a question, “but I think there’s plenty of room for argument. If you can’t discriminate based on one person’s status, you can’t discriminate based on their associates’ status.”Grossman, reached this week, said she’s found another job, working the snack bar at a Louisville country club near her home. The manager told her he doesn’t care about her stickers, she said, but Grossman plans to drive her sister’s (non-stickered) car to work for the time being. Contact the writer at