Complaint alleges Salt Lake school lunchrooms have ‘hostile work environment’

Posted at 10:10 PM, Mar 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-04 00:10:56-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Salt Lake City School District could become the subject of a federal probe after a school board member filed a complaint with the USDA, claiming female lunch clerks are being discriminated against.

The District came under heavy fire in February after nearly 40 Uintah Elementary school students were denied lunches.

The school board member who filed the complaint is Michael Clara. He has a reputation for being outspoken. The Salt Lake City School District said his allegations are baseless, but Clara said someone with the USDA called him Monday, saying the complaint has been accepted.

"It's a federal complaint based on sex discrimination," Clara said.

In the lengthy letter to the USDA, Clara writes,  "I am alleging that the Salt Lake City School District has created and maintained an intimidating and hostile working environment within its Child Nutrition Department...child nutrition employees are not allowed to take their 30 minute lunch...Employees are not being paid for hours they work...In several elementary schools the 4th & 5th grade students are not receiving a full lunch because not enough food was ordered or prepared."

Clara, who is a school board member elected by voters, claims at least ten female cafeteria workers came to him with complaints about the Salt Lake City School District's "hostile work environment."

"They fear retaliation and retribution if they go to their managers," Clara said.

The district recently faced national scrutiny after dozens of elementary school kids' lunches were either taken away or thrown away because of negative account balances. Now, another black eye, after the District's own board member takes them to task, at the federal level.

Jason Olsen, the Communications Director for the Salt Lake City School District, released a statement to Fox 13 News, saying in part: "Clara's allegations are without merit. We would welcome any chance to speak with the USDA and fully inform them about our child nutrition department and school meal program."

Clara said the district’s response was disappointing.

"I filed the federal complaint asking a third party to look at these, and the snap response from the district is the allegations are without merit,” he said.

See below for the complaint and the district's complete response:

Depending on your settings and the web browser you use, the files may open in a new window or begin downloading as a PDF.

The first document, Federal Complaint: Hostile Work Environment in the Lunchroom, was submitted by school board member Michael Clara.

Federal complaint from Michael Clara

The second document is a response from the school district.

Media statement regarding Michael Clara’s Allegations