First of all, it’s important to remember that Texas is an at-will state. Meaning, your employer can fire you at any time for just about any reason. For Carmen Baez, this meant using the office laminator for personal use.
Baez works for Williamson County in the Facilities department. They’re the folks who paint the offices, change the fluorescents, and generally make sure that county properties operate the way they’re meant. She’s decorated her office in subtle ways during Pride month, but this year decided to make a poster – and laminate it at the office. Now, I don’t know about you, but who among us hasn’t made copies or used various office machines for personal reasons and not business? The Department Head pulled her aside when she returned the laminator to its home in the conference room and wanted to know if she had used it for personal purposes. She admitted she had, and he asked to see the result. She was told not to place it back on the wall and to be happy her previous decorations had been ignored. Two days later, she was fired.
She quotes her supervisor as saying, “Williamson County Facilities is inclusive – and we do not need to show it.”
When my church was discussing updating its open and affirming statement to include gender identity, I was asked why we had to include it. Wasn’t being Open and Affirming enough of a statement? Did we have to explicitly state the acceptance of every group? The answer is, of course, we do. Marginalized groups don’t read a statement like “all are welcome” as including them. We always need to show it. We always need to state it explicitly and unequivocally. It is never assumed.
The same is true of Williamson County offices and departments. Officially, on paper, the county is inclusive. The County Employee Handbook says so. Those are just words on paper, however. The reality is being fired for using the office laminator to seal a poster that says, “Inclusivity: This room is a safe space. Respect for diversity! Pride is everyday. Pride is inclusive. Pride is Kindness. Pride is Judgement Free. Pride is Fun. Pride is Who We Are.”
Clearly, it’s not who Wilco Facilities is.