Denmark had allowed its old blasphemy law to fall into disuse, but now it’s reviving prosecutions by way of its ban on hate speech purportedly aimed at religious groups [Jacob Mchangama, Columbia U. Global Freedom of Expression & Information Jurisprudence Project]
Read deep enough into this very long New York Times report, and you learn that Air France has been stymied from dismissing some employees it suspects of Islamic radicalization because “individuals were often able to successfully challenge such dismissals in French labor courts”:
Guillaume Pepy, the head of SNCF, the French national railway operator, recently conceded that the country’s anti-terrorist services had alerted the company — which employs 50,000 people — to as many as 10 employees in the last year whom they suspected of having ties to Islamist groups. But rather than fire the employees and risk a costly discrimination suit, Mr. Pepy told a French radio in January that it was SNCF’s policy to ensure that the individuals were not allowed to be train drivers or signal operators or to hold other positions that could pose a security threat.
Other tensions in religious accommodation law:
…At certain bus depots, [a labor union official] said, some male employees wouldn’t take the wheel of a vehicle that had been previously driven by a woman.
“Rather than report the behavior to the authority’s human resource managers, Mr. Salmon said that supervisors simply adjusted the drivers’ schedules and routes to avoid handoffs between women and men. In one case, Mr. Salmon said, a woman who lived within walking distance of her depot asked to be transferred to a job across town rather than stay and continue to endure the harassment….
It’s precisely the employees managers are afraid of who may fare best in winning accommodation:
Paradoxically, [the director of a research institute] said, it is often the employees most open to dialogue who are the first to be pressed to adapt their religious practices, while more troubling behavior is sometimes allowed to continue unchallenged for fear of escalating the problem.
“Radical people make some managers nervous, and so they leave them alone,” Mr. Honoré said.
Some advocates have been billing it as a “Muslims not allowed to pray” story, but the actual story out of a Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Fort Morgan, Colorado is predictably quite a bit more complicated than that [Ian Tuttle, National Review; Eric B. Meyer, Employer Handbook]
P.S. And now a group Muslim prayer dispute has sprung up at Ariens, a Wisconsin maker of lawn mowers and snowblowers, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations vowing to file EEOC complaints [ABC News]
We’ve reported earlier on the case of EEOC v. Star Trucking, in which two Muslim employees alleged that their employer, a trucking firm, was obliged under federal religious-discrimination law to accommodate their wish not to haul beer. The case had gotten less press attention than the later, similar case of a flight attendant who asserts religious scruples against serving alcoholic beverages to passengers. Now an Illinois federal jury has agreed with the EEOC and awarded the workers $240,000. [EEOC press release (updated to replace earlier paywalled link)]
More: Eugene Volokh noting that Title VII as long enforced requires employers to accommodate employees’ religiously-based requests when the burdens of doing so are small, and that Star Transport — which has since reportedly gone out of business — did not put forth a showing otherwise in this case.
Cato has now posted the video of its annual Constitution Day conference including the civil rights panel, on which I spoke. My talk on EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the hijab religious-accommodation case, begins at 40:30, after presentations by William Eskridge of Yale Law School on the Obergefell (same-sex marriage) case, and Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity on disparate impact in fair housing. Roger Pilon of Cato introduces us and moderates.
Discrimination in public accommodations claim: California plaintiff Sam Mojabi alleges in a lawsuit that Petco has a “systematic” practice of suspending sales of goldfish around the time of the spring equinox. Following the circulation of reports that some families celebrate the Middle Eastern spring-equinox new year’s holiday Nowruz, influenced by Zoroastrian traditions, with a display of live goldfish, some store personnel sought to prevent the sale of the fish to Persian/Iranian buyers for fear the animals would not be cared for well after the holiday. [ABA Journal] Ten years ago Britain’s then-Labour government backed off a proposed ban on the awarding of goldfish in a plastic bag as a fairground prize, and more recently an elderly shopkeeper was “given an electronic tag and curfew for selling a goldfish to a 14 year-old” in a sting operation despite a law limiting sales to over-16s.
New at Politico Europe, my piece on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint by a Muslim flight attendant, covered here last week, who doesn’t want to serve alcohol (“scruples about screwpulls”) and what, if anything, it has in common with the Kim Davis case. (As a direct legal matter, not much.) I reference the EEOC v. Star Transport case:
Here’s the thing: The EEOC has already sided with Muslim employees who wish to avoid handling alcohol….If Charee Stanley or a future counterpart someday wins the right to bob and weave through the passenger cabin, handing out only beverages that meet with her spiritual approval, she’ll have this record of Congressional posturing to thank.
Surprisingly or otherwise, the pressure for federal law to become more indulgent toward private employees’ demands for religious accommodation — thus turning cases like Stanley’s into more likely winners — has come both from liberal lawmakers like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and from conservatives like Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal.
Related: “No one should have to choose between their career and religion,” proclaimed Stanley’s lawyer. Really? No one? Ever? [Andrew Stuttaford, Secular Right] My Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro on why West Coast florist Barronelle Stutzman is far more deserving of martyr status than Kim Davis (my two cents, leading to GoFundMe “campaign not found”). And dear #kimdavis meme-slingers: be advised that Dallas judges are under no legal obligation to do weddings [Taylor Millard, Hot Air]
Football analyst Craig James, who is filing a federal lawsuit in Dallas, claims that “Fox Sports trample[d] my religious liberty” by not giving him further work as a TV commentator after a single appearance — he “had yet to sign a contract” — after it became aware that he had said controversial things while running for the U.S. Senate seat from Texas ultimately won by Ted Cruz. [Washington Post, Feb. 2014 Dallas News] James is now affiliated with the Family Research Council, where his biography notes: “Craig is known for his ability to see an opportunity and for his relentless pursuit of uncovering every rock to make sure he knows the deal before he buys it.”
I’ve got a new post up at Cato about the Supreme Court’s decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc. The Court’s 8-1 ruling on fairly narrow grounds in favor of the headscarf-wearing claimant isn’t very surprising, for reasons I explain in the piece. The ruling could expose employers to more liability, particularly of the sued-if-you-do, sued-in-you-don’t variety, since it encourages employers to pry into employees’ religious views or adopt stereotyped views about what their religious scruples should be presumed to be. Still, eight Justices were content to resolve the dispute on relatively dry statutory interpretation grounds, with only Justice Clarence Thomas interested in interrogating the law at a more fundamental level. (Why, he wonders, is equal treatment based on non-religious considerations now considered “intentional discrimination” based on religion?)
P.S. More coverage: Daniel Fisher, Daniel Schwartz, Philip Miles. (More: Marci Hamilton.) And when might a National Review author favor limiting private employers’ liberty? When it’s a religious discrimination case.
“An employee who refused to submit to biometric hand scanning because he feared the scanner would imprint him with the “Mark of the Beast,” was awarded $150,000 in damages by a federal jury …. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Consol Energy on behalf of Butcher for allegedly forcing the long-time mine worker to retire because the companies’ newly installed technology violated his religious beliefs.” [Michael Stone, Patheos; Biometric Update, opinion and EEOC press release via Eugene Volokh, Jon Hyman and more (Sixth Circuit rules for employer in case where employee interprets Social Security number as mark of the Beast, because use of those numbers in hiring is mandatory under federal law)]