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YOUNGSTOWN SYMPHONY EEOC rules flutist was victim of gender bias in dismissal



Published: Sat, June 16, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By DEBORA SHAULIS

ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that a former Youngstown Symphony Orchestra musician was a victim of gender discrimination.

The Vindicator received a copy of a letter dated April 23 in which Michael C. Fetzer, EEOC Cleveland District director, wrote that Karla Kvam of Pittsburgh "was subjected to a harsher probationary period than her male counterparts" and "discharged because of her sex." That violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"Evidence of records also show that similarly situated female employees were subjected to discrimination based on their gender," Fetzer wrote. He recommended informal conciliation to resolve the conflict.

Fetzer, contacted Friday, wouldn't discuss the investigation because of confidentiality rules.

Asked to define conciliation, Fetzer said the EEOC routinely negotiates agreements that require violating parties to change their practices and pay compensatory or punitive damages.

"I want my job back," Kvam said Friday afternoon. The symphony hasn't agreed to conciliation, so the matter has been referred to EEOC's legal department, Kvam added.

Patricia Syak, the symphony's executive director, declined to comment except to say that the orchestra's personnel committee will take the ruling "under advisement." Music director Isaiah Jackson also declined to comment.

Union agreement: The agreement between Youngstown Symphony Society and American Federation of Musicians Local 86-242, which represents the musicians, gives the music director the right to dismiss probationary players so long as they are notified at least 21 days before the final regular-season performance.

New players are on probation for two years, said Del Sinchak, musicians union president.

Kvam had nearly completed her probation as the symphony's principal flutist when she was notified in writing April 7, 2000, that her contract would not be renewed. In the letter, Jackson said the dismissal was based on "several reasons, including intonation problems," which had been discussed in a meeting April 5, 2000.

Kvam was dismissed despite the objections of the orchestra committee, which asked Jackson to extend her probation for another year.

Grievance: The union had filed a grievance on Kvam's behalf. Two weeks before an arbitration hearing, an attorney from the union's New York office advised against pursuing Kvam's case because there was no apparent contract violation and because Jackson didn't have a pattern of gender discrimination at previous places of employment, Sinchak said.

The grievance was dropped. The musicians union has no outstanding grievances with the symphony, Sinchak said.

Kvam said she filed the EEOC charge on her own.

Asked to explain how Jackson treated male and female musicians differently, Kvam said, "He expected more of women in terms of their ability on their instruments ... much more so than men."

shaulis@vindy.com




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