The National Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of Molly Diers in a case she filed last year against the Guthrie Theater. She alleged the theater violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by downgrading her performance evaluation after she complained about conditions in the scene shop where she worked.
Judge Melissa Olivero cited an Oct. 6, 2017, performance evaluation as being in violation of the NLRA. In the evaluation, Diers was downgraded for “protected, concerted activity,” which included complaints about inappropriate jokes and behavior in the scene shop. Olivero also found that the Guthrie violated portions of the act by “threatening employees” who raised concerns. (A previous NLRB finding had thrown out part of Diers’ complaint, alleging that the theater retaliated when it hired an outside candidate for a scene shop supervisory position instead of Diers or co-worker Nate Saul.)
“Especially as a woman, we go unheard a lot. It was great to read the judgment and feel heard,” Diers said. “Nate and I have been telling the truth the whole time and it was great to have somebody believe us. I choked up reading the judge’s words.”
Diers said she doesn’t expect to be able to work in theater carpentry in the Twin Cities again but added, “I don’t regret doing what I did.”
In her 30-page opinion, Olivero cited Saul, who resigned in January 2018, along with Diers, as credible witnesses in their testimony about conversations that took place at the Guthrie in the months leading up to her resignation. In particular, Olivero wrote, “A credibility resolution is in order regarding [then-Guthrie human resources director Jean] Leuthner’s statements to Saul on November 10, 2017. I credit the version of this meeting testified to by Saul over that provided by Leuthner.” (Leuthner left the theater last October.)
Olivero also wrote, “I find that Leuthner’s references to Diers’ testing people, bringing negative consequences on herself, and failure to be a team player violate the Act.”
As a result, the Guthrie must rescind Diers’ negative performance evaluation, cease action that Olivero characterized as “threatening employees” and post a notice to that effect.
In a note to employees, the Guthrie’s managing director, James Haskins wrote, “While we respectfully disagree with the decision of the judge, which found in favor of the former employee, we will not appeal the decision.”
“I think the judge’s decision sends an important message to employers that they need to take harassment claims seriously and respond swiftly as well as appropriately to any report of harassment in the workplace,” said Justin Cummins, the attorney who represented Diers and her union, the International Alliance of Theater Stage Employees, by e-mail.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367