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Salt Lake school board member alleges discrimination against cafeteria workers

Published: Tuesday, March 4 2014 6:59 p.m. MST

A board member from the Salt Lake City School District has filed a federal complaint alleging the district has created a "hostile and intimidating working environment" for female cafeteria workers.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City School Board member has filed a federal complaint alleging that the Salt Lake City School District has created a "hostile and intimidating working environment" for female cafeteria workers.

School board member Michael Clara says at least 10 female employees of the district's Child Nutrition Department have come to him with complaints about their male supervisors, according to a complaint addressed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Citing civil rights and education laws, Clara claims female workers in understaffed cafeterias are not compensated for working overtime, injured employees are fired, and employees who question supervisors are threatened with termination.

Clara also said short-handed staffs at some elementary schools are unable to comply with health standards, haven't been able to prepare enough food, and that fourth- and fifth-graders have not received a full lunch. He goes on to explain that at least 10 female cafeteria workers have come to him with complaints and are interested in talking to the USDA.

The school district released a statement saying Clara's claims 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," the district statement says. "Each school kitchen is inspected on a regular basis by the health department and must fulfill strict requirements in regards to cleanliness, cooking and washing temperatures, and overall sanitation. The Child Nutrition Department and school cafeterias are subject to regular audits and reviews, looking at compliance with federal, state, county, and local laws and rules."

The Salt Lake District came under national scrutiny earlier this year after lunches were taken from Uintah Elementary School students with zero balances and thrown into the garbage.

Clara redacted nearly three pages of his complaint before posting it on his website. He said the redacted section details the experience of lunchroom manager Shirley Canham, who was temporarily placed on administrative leave after the lunch disposal, and requests that the USDA review the incident.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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