Goodness knows, I’m no fan of the TSA. But really, this is story is just ridiculous. A TSA agent working in Albany, NY was fired recently, and the fact that she’s a Wiccan was central in her firing. MSNBC reports on this would-be-laughable-if-it-weren’t-true debacle of fear and loathing (WebCite cached article):
Each person’s story is unique, but what happened to Carole A. Smith gives us a glimpse of the work life of the 400,000-plus Wiccans in the United States. And it sheds light on work life at the TSA, where the 40,000-plus public employees who keep bad people and bad things off of airplanes have started voting this month on whether to join a union.
It all started when one of Smith’s coworkers reported that she’d “threatened” her by “casting a spell” and following her home from work. TSA officials dutifully investigated:
The assistant director, Matthew W. Lloyd, testified later that he realized immediately there was no genuine threat of workplace violence. Smith hadn’t followed anyone home — that’s the only highway going toward her home from the airport. It was just a personality conflict made worse by fear of an unfamiliar religion.
He had a suggestion for Smith. She should enter into a formal mediation session with [Mary] Bagnoli, her accuser, through the TSA’s Integrated Conflict Management System, or ICMS. The mediation “would be a good venue to dispel any misconceptions” that her co-worker had about her religious beliefs, he told her.
“He wanted me to go to ICMS and sit down with Mary and explain my religion to her,” Smith said. “I’m like, ‘No.’ I refused to do that. It’s not up to me to teach her my religion. I mean, would I have to go down and sit with her if I was Jewish?”
That’s a very good question … and one that would crop up again later. Things degraded rapidly for Smith:
“Where did you park your broom?” she said one co-worker asked her. “Why don’t you come to work in your pointy hat?” She said one shift supervisor told another, “She’s going to put a hex on me.” …
She said another employee yelled at her in a baggage room, in front of other employees and a supervisor, “Get her the hell out of here! I can’t stand to look at her!” A co-worker advised her to transfer to another airport.
Eventually Smith’s seniors at TSA fired her; she filed an EEOC claim over it, though, and at a hearing, the administrative judge asked the same question Smith had originally asked, about why “mediation” would have been a good idea in the wake of Bagnoli’s (false) accusation:
Judge Macauley: Why? Why? Why? Why should that be a good venue? It should be an irrelevant venue. If Ms. Bagnoli has a problem with her religion, then she needs to be corrected that it’s not relevant on the job and to ignore it. Am I correct?
Lloyd: Yes. You’re absolutely correct.
Judge: Let’s take the witchcraft out of it. If someone complains to you, he’s Jewish, and refers to a stereotype about his Judaism, go to mediation and work it out? Is that management’s response to that?
Lloyd: No. That would not be management’s response to that.
Judge: OK. But witchcraft takes it into a different thing? I guess. I guess witchcraft and Judaism are different in the sense that — what?
Lloyd: To be perfectly honest, sir, at the time, I wasn’t even — I didn’t know anything about witchcraft or Wiccanism. … I wasn’t even aware that Wiccanism was a recognized religion at the time. I had to research it afterwards.
Smith lost the hearing nonetheless, and is appealing. But let’s be honest, Wiccans are intensely disliked, distrusted, and often shunned. OK, so Wicca isn’t my cup of tea either … but this is a free country, fercryinoutloud. Grow up and get over it already!
Photo credit: Wiccan & Proud.Tags: ALB, albany, albany NY, carole a smith, eeoc, firing, hex, mary bagnoli, new age, new ager, persecution, religious persecution, transportation safety administration, tsa, wicca, wiccan, witch, witchcraft, witches
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