Ethical Questions Surround Collins Firing

Michael Wilner of the Claremont Port Side reports that CMC's Human Resources department may have crossed ethical lines in the firing of a Collins Dining Hall worker, Pedro Gonzalez. Gonzalez had apparently taken an leave of absence, but before returning, he learned his position had been terminated. HR maintains it stayed within protocol in handling the situation, but that protocol and its application has now been brought into question. Wilner summarizes, "The controversy, then, is threefold: if decade-old employees (if not all employees) should be given courtesy in extraordinary circumstances; if the school should modify its resources to acknowledge the huge number of Hispanics employed; and if the student body is going to take an active role in pushing for change." Full coverage of this issue and a number of other new articles are available at the Claremont Port Side, but for convenience, here's the gist of the three facets Wilner mentions:

Courtesy

After making contact with the Human Resources Department – at which no one speaks Spanish – Pedro was told on January 15 that his vacation time would not be approved as an excuse of leave. Susan Cozzitarto, director of Human Resources, told him that he would have to fly back to Los Angeles to fill out the appropriate paperwork by January 19, despite a court hearing requiring his attendance in Mexico on January 30. “After almost a decade of service, you’d think they would cut him some slack,” said Carlos Rivas, CMC ‘12. “He doesn’t have the money to fly back and forth with his meager hourly wage, and a school that prides itself on community should understand that.

Language Literacy - Hispanic Employees

[CMC HR] policy requires that “it is clearly understood whether or not the position will be held open for the employee’s return.” Pedro didn’t know this policy, and neither does half the Collins staff: the manual is only printed in English, and more than half of the workers speak Spanish as a first language. Their general manager at Collins, Pam Franco, does not speak Spanish. This same problem persists for grounds workers, with 50 percent speaking English with only colloquial capacity.

Student Response

Student anger has grown across the consortium since Pedro was fired. The Worker’s Support Committee, consisting mostly of Pomona and Pitzer College students, has prepared a petition in support of his rehiring. Students from the organization cite numerous reasons to justify the move, including the fact that Pedro had more than enough vacation time to cover his absence. But their primary reason is a sense that Pedro’s language proved a liability in and of itself, in a circumstance treated with insouciance in a small, intimate campus community.

The Forum welcomes discussion on this topic, and if either party--the CMC Administration or the protesting students--would like to respond, we'd happily facilitate that discussion. Also, though we dislike republishing content, we will synidicate a story if its reporting, writing, or novelty merits it.