Report: Former YMCA Aquatics Director Fired for Reporting Pool Safety Concerns


Reporting unsafe pool conditions likely cost a former aquatics director at a Maine YMCA her job, according to a recent report released by the Maine Human Rights Commission.

Investigator Angela Tizon said there are "reasonable grounds" to believe the YMCA of Southern Maine in Portland retaliated against Mary Gray in violation of the Maine Whistleblowers' Protection Act and recommended conciliation in accordance with Maine law.

Gray worked at the YMCA of Southern Maine in Portland for three months in 2013. During that time, she said she reported unsafe chlorine and pH safety levels to the the YMCA's executive director, who no longer works there. Gray told Tizon that the director did not address those concerns, called her borderline "obsessive" and pressured her to keep pools open.

Gray closed the pools on two occasions due to unsafe chemical levels and was reprimanded by the director for not notifying the director before closing the pools. A YMCA representative said Gray was not discharged for reporting safety issues but was discharged for unacceptable interactions with coworkers and others, according to the report.

The YMCA cited a "heated exchange" with a coworker and a different dispute with another coworker over a safety procedure change regarding personal flotation devices. When the pools were shut down for the second time over a weekend, a coworker said Gray caused an intolerable level of stress and called the pool vendor 40 times about pool problems. The director subsequently terminated Gray's employment.

Tizon said Gray's concerns may have caused stress or anxiety among YMCA staff and management, but she concluded that Gray was able to show that if it was not for her safety complaints, the YMCA of Southern Maine likely would not have terminated her employment.

"Portland Director was plainly unhappy that Complainant (Gray) was focusing on these safety concerns, and worried about creating a perception that the pool was unsafe," Tizon wrote in the analysis section of the 12-page report. "However, Portland Director cannot dispute that the chemical levels in the pool were unsafe."

The YMCA of Southern Maine did not respond to a Club Industry request seeking comment on the report.

The Maine Human Rights Commission adopted Tizon's recommendation at its meeting on June 1 without argument as there was no written disagreement to her finding.

The report recommended conciliation. Anything said or done as part of the conciliation is confidential and cannot be disclosed without written consent from both parties.

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