Pride flag on screensaver offends coworkers, employee resigns

Michelle Hurn resigns after being asked to remove Pride flag from screensaver.
Photo credit:
Daily Camera Boulder News - Cliff Grassmick

A Colorado medical professional has resigned from her position because she was asked to remove an image of the Pride flag from her computer desktop.

Deemed “offensive” by a coworker, Michelle Hurn, who is openly gay, had to remove the image from her rotating screensaver slideshow.

Hurn worked at the Boulder Community Health Center (BCH) and explains to ABC 7 Denver what exactly was on her desktop at work.

“It kind of rotates between pictures of me running, my chickens, my dog. The last screen saver I had before this was me and my wife after we went to a wedding.”

The scrolling images also contained a picture of a Pride flag. Hurn says it is a “symbol of equality… for people who are marginalized.”

Her boss asked her to remove it because it was offending some, and garnered a compliant from a fellow worker.

“To say that a symbol of equality is offensive… I have a real problem with that and I just don’t feel good working for an organization that’s going to stand behind that,” said Hurn.

“I was very surprised that HR, my boss, the director of our department, they all told me they like me, they think I’m a good dietitian, they think I do great work, but if I’m going to put the symbol back up, then they’re going to start the discipline process and that I was going to be fired.”

Pink News reports that Hurn resigned after repeated confrontations with managers.

The health center’s CEO, Rob Vissers, says he didn’t ban the image because it was offensive, rather he wanted to keep the workplace politically neutral.

He released this statement about the issue:

I’m writing today to share my personal feelings on the recent media report implying that Boulder Community Health is not supportive of the LGBTQI community and its allies

BCH unequivocally supports the right of all employees to be part of a welcoming and safe workplace. We are proud to be a community owned and operated health system that reflects the deeply held values of tolerance and inclusiveness that define Boulder

While BCH normally would not comment on specific personnel issues, important inaccuracies in a recent media report compel me to vary from that approach.

An employee recently resigned from her position related to use of a shared workplace computer and a dispute with a coworker.

The employee who resigned was never threatened with termination by any member of the management team or Human Resources Department at BCH. The employee was offered the opportunity to have formal or informal mediation with her coworker but declined that option and chose to resign. 

The media report also stated that the gay pride flag was on a list of offensive images that are banned at BCH.

There is not and never has been such a list. It is BCH practice that communications and images in shared workspaces be neutral. The purpose of this practice is to maintain a workplace that is focused on patient care.  In this specific situation, the employee resigned rather than accept our content neutrality practice.

Unfortunately, American society is increasingly polarized and we in Boulder are not immune to that divisiveness. I am deeply saddened that this incident has caused members of our community to feel unwelcome at BCH. This is not who we are and does not represent our values.

We at BCH are proud of and deeply value the diversity and inclusiveness of our workforce, but this incident has made us realize we still have much work to do in order to provide the accepting environment our employees and patients deserve and expect.

Over the next two weeks, we will hold a series of employee meetings to specifically discuss issues of workplace equality and our internal culture.

These meetings represent an opportunity to reinforce the bedrock values that underlie Boulder Community Health and to listen to our community to facilitate healing and understanding. We will use this moment to move forward together.