A former Montrose, Mich. librarian claims she got fired for not using her “indoor voice” inside a library.
Susan Harshfield, 30, is suing the Genesee District Library over claims that she was fired for talking too loudly to police after she called for 911 for help with a patron who refused to leave the library.
Harshfield’s attorney, Tom Pabst, said his client was serving as a whistleblower when she was fired. He claimed it is illegal for the library to have fired Harshfield, who was merely cooperating with the police investigation and is protected by the state’s whistleblower laws.
The lawsuit stems from a dispute on Sept. 5 between Harshfield and the library patron over DVDs. Harshfield says she asked the patron to leave but the patron refused.
“This woman was not willing to leave my branch and basically I had to call 911,” Harshfield told MLive.com
The former librarian claims she was fired less than three weeks later because she provided a detailed statement to police and that those statements could create liability issues for the library in future civil or criminal cases.
But library officials claim that Hashfield showed “gross misconduct” by speaking loudly to police, according to the termination notice.
“You spoke rudely and loudly to the police officer demanding that he make the patron leave the premises,” the termination letter reads. “You angrily questioned the police officer about his disregard of following the GDL policy on removing patrons from the building. The police officer had to physically direct you to leave the area so that he could assess the situation.”
Harshfield says that library policy gave her the authority to have patrons leave the branch at her request.
The termination letter reveals Harshfield was previously placed on a Performance Improvement Plan in August to go over the importance of solving problems with “professionalism, control and poise.”
Harshfield, who began working at the Montrose branch two years ago, says the reason why she was placed in the improvement plan was because she included patron complaints about the branch in the regular reports she has to file with the library board.
“They said there’s no room for negativity in our board reports,” Harshfield said. “I thought those things were supposed to be honest.”
The former librarian is now looking for another job, but says she hopes the lawsuit can help those who still work at the library.