Letter to AAUW in Support of Kay Weber

Absinthe has asked me to do a mirror post of her post on this issue. So, here it is.

Several months ago I told you about the Kay Weber v Fremilab lawsuit in my post Class action lawsuits. If you read the link to her federal court Complaint contained in that post, you will see that she lived through a decade of appalling sexual harassment and even more appalling retaliation when she complained to the lab (she was successively demoted over the course of a decade from being one of the top women at the lab to eventually working under the supervision of a tech…she was ultimately fired ostensibly for using her computer to look at a non-work-related web site (yeah, like non of the 3000 males at the lab have ever been guilty of that)).

Kay has applied to the Legal Advocacy Fund of the American Association of University Women for monetary support which she very badly needs (her house is in foreclosure). However, in discussions I have had with both Kay and the head of the AAUW LAF, the AAUW LAF board is deeply divided on whether to take this case because some of the people on the board do not think Fermilab classifies as a university entity.
It is time for a letter writing campaign to the AAUW LAF; Fermilab is run by a consortium of universities, and (especially important) is classified as an educational institution under Title IX. Kay’s case does not include any Title IX claims, but it is very conceivable that in the not too distant future Fermilab will be slapped with a big Title IX class action lawsuit, in which case the support of the AAUW would be important and very advantageous.
So, I would like you all to take the time to drop a line to Sarah Warbelow (warbelos@aauw.org), the head of the AAUW LAF, to ask the board to please support Kay’s case. Here is what such a letter might look like (feel free to cut and paste the whole thing if you want):

Dear Ms. Warbelow,
It is my understanding that the AAUW legal advocacy fund has recently received an application for case support from Kay Weber, asking for monetary and advocacy support for her Title VII lawsuit against Fermilab. I have read Ms.Weber’s federal court Complaint and am appalled at the sexual harassment she had to deal with for a decade, along with the egregious retaliation she suffered after each of her complaints about the harassment to the Fermilab EEO office.
I have heard that the AAUW is struggling to determine whether or not Ms.Weber’s case falls under the AAUW mandate, since the AAUW questions whether or not Fermilab is a “university”; it should be noted that Fermilab is managed by a consortium of universities called the Universities Research Association (http://www.ura-hq.org), and that the Department of Energy provides funds to this academic consortium to operate the laboratory. Also, according to the Department of Energy Title IX compliance document, available at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/cor/byagency/doeix.pdf#search=%221040.23%20research%22 Fermilab classifies as an educational institution (see section 1040.23, part c3). The Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights confirms that Fermilab is indeed a non-profit educational institution under Title IX.
Ms.Weber’s case contains no Title IX claims, but it is conceivable that in the not too distant future Fermilab may well have to answer to a Title IX class action lawsuit, since anecdotal evidence indicates that Ms.Weber’s misogynistic working environment at the laboratory is by no means unique (see, for instance http://radio.weblogs.com/0151290/). Given that the AAUW has issued past statements advocating the use of Title IX to ensure greater gender equity in the sciences, it seems wrong to dismiss Ms.Weber’s claim as not falling under the mandate of the AAUW, since such a dismissal would likely negate AAUW financial and advocacy support of possible future Title IX lawsuits against the laboratory that would solidly fall under the mandate of the AAUW.
Please choose to support Weber v Fermilab. The importance of this case to greater gender equity in the sciences, particularly at our national laboratories (which do legally classify as education institutions), cannot be underestimated.
[insert your name here]

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