FLORIDA: Christian Public Employee Says “Unbearable” Rainbow Flag Creates Hostile Work Environment

From the Tampa Bay Times:

A pride flag waving outside the Hillsborough County center was meant to be a sign of respect and remembrance for the victims of the shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.

But just a day after it was raised, Commissioner Stacy White said it may be offending Christian employees and questioned whether it should be taken down.

In an email sent to the the county human relations director Peggy Rowe on Thursday, White said he received an anonymous complaint from a county employee that the presence of the flag was “nearly unbearable” for her to pass on her way to work and created a “hostile work environment.”

Calling the rainbow flag a “divisive, politically-charged symbol,” White asked Rowe if it could become an HR problem for the county. If it does, then White said he wanted a special meeting of the county commission to consider removing it.

Here’s more from White’s email:

My office recently received an anonymous phone call from a county employee stating that, because of her strong Christian beliefs, it will be nearly unbearable for her pass the “pride” flag each morning as she enters the workplace. She clearly indicated that the display of that flag, for her, has created a hostile work environment.

My question is, given the nature of this employee complaint, has the board’s action taken this past Wednesday created any issues for the county from a Human Resources perspective? If the display of this flag exposes the county any liability whatsoever, I request that it be taken down on the basis that the board’s action has violated the workplace rights of some of our employees. If liability exists and board action is still required to remove the flag, I would like to request a special called meeting of the county commission in order to discuss the unforeseen consequences of this display and allow for the board to take another vote on the display given the information now at its disposal.

I wish to state for the record that, even if there is deemed to be zero liability from an HR perspective, it is still – in my view – unconscionable that the county administrator didn’t express to the board that this divisive symbol might create an uncomfortable workplace environment for many of his employees.