Posts Tagged ‘religious discrimination’

EEOC wins $240K for Muslim truckers who refused to haul beer

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.

More about EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores

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.

You can read my article on the Abercrombie case here, part of the newly published 2014-2015 Cato Supreme Court Review. I’m also quoted in the ABA Journal’s coverage of the case. Earlier here.

“Petco won’t sell goldfish to Persians on spring equinox, lawsuit says”

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.

Flight attendant: my religion entitles me to avoid serving liquor

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]

“Fox Sports trample[d] my religious liberty” by withholding TV gig

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.”

Supreme Court rules for Abercrombie hijab claimant

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.

Jury awards $150K to employee who feared scanner as “Mark of the Beast”

“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)]

EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch: employers as mind-readers

The Supreme Court is considering the case of a woman who sued torrid-youth retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, saying it discriminated against her based on religious belief when it failed to waive its “Look Policy,” in which sales personnel are expected to wear only clothes sold by the store, to accommodate her modesty headscarf. Never mind whether this demand would be a reasonable one in itself; the case has gone up to the U.S. Supreme Court in large part because of a second issue, whether the store was legally obliged to grasp the situation intuitively as based on religion and pre-emptively accommodate Samantha Elauf “even though Elauf never informed them that she would need a religious accommodation.” A district court ruled that it was so obliged, the Tenth Circuit reversed, and now the Supreme Court is hearing the case at the EEOC’s request.

Requiring employers to offer a religious accommodation before they are on notice that one is sought requires them to act on “crude stereotypes or pry into employees’ personal lives,” write Ilya Shapiro and Julio Colomba. Not all employee requests on subjects such as modesty, diet, or weekend attendance are associated with religious affiliation and observance, while conversely many persons with genuine or sincere religious affiliation or belief do not conform to stereotypical expectations about what their religion might require of them in the workplace. Individual employees are thus “in a significantly better position to identify conflicts than employers.” The Cato Institute has filed an amicus brief on Abercrombie’s side arguing that the Court should reject the EEOC’s position as unworkable, unfair, and not required by the statute.

Related: Eugene Volokh has been posting on religious-exemption and religious-accommodation law at Volokh Conspiracy. For those who imagine, reading the Hobby Lobby and state-RFRA coverage, that religious exemptions have mostly been favored by conservatives over liberal opposition, he reminds us that the actual history is nearer the opposite. And he explains why his own view is that an optimal approach would include a mix of legislatively and judicially crafted (consistent with legislative wishes) religious exemptions and accommodations, but not necessarily a constitutional entitlement to accommodation.