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Former YMCA employee claims she was offered hush money following transgender controversy

In April, the YMCA implemented a new policy that would allow transgendered individuals to choose the bathroom that he or she identifies with. (Eric Mandel)
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A former area YMCA employee claims she was fired after disagreeing with changes to the transgender bathroom policy and was offered money and benefits to keep her concerns private.

In April, the YMCA implemented a new policy that would allow transgendered individuals to choose the bathroom that he or she identifies with. Kaeley Haver, who said she worked at the YMCA for 17 years, told KTTH’s Todd Herman that she initially raised concerns about, what she considers, safety issues related to the change at the end of March. Her stated rationale stems from being a survivor of sexual trauma, a mother and for religious reasons. She said her concerns went largely unanswered and that she was “dealt with” through Human Resources, being told she was overreacting.

She said she wrote a blog about her concerns that was published in The Federalist, and the YMCA concluded that she was having inappropriate communications with members.

“There was one difference between the option of being terminated and paid through that day, or resigning with benefits and being paid for the next 10 weeks or so &#8212 and the difference was that I had to be quiet and not accuse the Y of anything and not be specific in my concerns when I’m speaking about it,” she said. “To me, it’s what every victim or survivor of sexual trauma has already experienced too many times, and that’s not going to work for me anymore.”

Michelle Larue, Senior Vice President of Marketing with the Pierce and Kitsap YMCA, declined to comment on anything related to Haver’s employment, including whether or not she was ever a YMCA employee, saying she “can’t speak to any personnel issues out of respect for our employees and former employees.”

Haver worked as the area YMCA’s Marketing and Mission Director for five years, before taking a position as Communications Director in January, according to her Linkedin profile.

Bob Ecklund, President and CEO of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap County released a statement to its members on Oct. 5, after the original story broke, saying the organization would modify the April policy for transgender individuals in locker rooms and restrooms in “family facilities.” Ecklund said the change was to ensure youth are not exposed to the opposite sex in their locker room.

The organization has stressed that the issue of transgender inclusion and child safety are unrelated.

Larue told Herman in October that there had previously been no policy for the “fairly low” number of transgender members, and that there have been no incidents of inappropriate exposure or use since the initial policy change in April. She added that the organization didn’t broadly inform the public about the initial policy change out of respect to the transgender individuals, but that the intent was not to keep anyone in the dark.

While Larue stated that the YMCA never deliberately kept parents in the dark, Haver denies that notion, claiming to have an entire email thread that proves it was a purposeful decision.

“We made a very intentional decision not to tell people,” she said. “In fact, we didn’t even tell our staff, and the few staff that were informed, it wasn’t in writing, which is also, in terms of communications, not the way we do things. It was a one-on-one conversation in the back office. That was intentional.”

Larue added that the deliberate hush-hush of the policy made it so none of the staff were trained on how to handle any potential safety concerns.

“If you were to give every single one of our staff members a one-question survey, with the one question being, ‘What do you do if you see somebody who looks like a male walking into the women’s restroom?’ that would tell you quite a lot,” she said. “Nobody would know how to answer that question.

“We were definitely not in a situation we really needed to take an urgent, quick decision on this,” she added. “It flies in the face of any other way that we’ve ever communicated anything. So even if we change a paint color or anything of that nature, it’s always done with precision and care and careful planning and this was not. This was just crazy. It’s never happened at the Y this way before.”

Larue said Tuesday that the organization’s stance hasn’t changed since her interview with Herman in October and that the organization has engaged in the public with dozens of positive community leader meetings, and will be reporting back findings before the end of the year.

Haver said she confronted Larue about the issue and was called “closed-minded.” Haver also told Herman she did her own research, finding that three of the 195 registered sex offenders in the area had inadvertently been given access to the YMCA, two as members, one for showering purposes. Haver said she informed the security team and those individuals were cut off. But, she said, those are the types of mistakes, when mixed with a policy that led to confusion, that can lead to safety risks.

Larue stated that she didn’t know any specifics on any of Haver’s alleged research, but the YMCA screens all members upon their initial visit for national and local sex offenses, and that an additional check is conducted every three months.

Haver said the most difficult part about coming forward is that she wants the YMCA to be an open place for the transgender community.

“If this interview leads people to think that they are justified in being cruel or unkind, or name-calling, that’s not it,” she said. “As the Y &#8212 I still talk as ‘we’ because that’s my home and I’m still kind of getting used to the fact that I’m not in the ‘we’ anymore &#8212 but we need to serve everybody and include everybody, but we don’t need to compromise anybody’s safety. That’s not necessary.”

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