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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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22 Oct 2015 EEOC Defends “Mark of The Beast” Ruling – Religious Beliefs Don’t Have To Make Sense To Be Protected

In August 2015, the EEOC prevailed in a religious discrimination lawsuit against Consol Energy and was awarded in excess of $500,000.00.  Former Consol mine worker Beverly Butcher, who had been with the company for over 35 years, refused to use Consol’s new biometric hand scanners that were installed to track employee time and attendance.  He explained that he believed that scanners would leave the “mark of the beast” and would be a sign for the antichrist.  Consol required Butcher to use the scanners and refused…

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13 Jul 2015 “Perceived as” Religious Bias Claims? – A Federal Court in Michigan Says “Yes”

Recently, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Michigan denied a company’s motion for summary judgment that Title VII and Michigan state law do not prohibit discrimination on the basis of perceived religion. Kallabat v. Michigan Bell Tele. Co.¸2015 BL 194351, E.D. Mich., No. 2:12-cv-15470. Despite the citation of other six federal district court decisions from other states (IL, KS, NC, NY, OH and TN) holding that Title VII does not cover a perceived religion claim, the court held that they would not bar…

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22 Jun 2015 Does Being “Perceived As” Muslim Support A Title VII Claim? One Court Says Yes

Readers will know that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is distinctive among discrimination statutes in that it protects not only people who are disabled but also those regarded as disabled, as discussed here and here.  The foundation of a Title VII sex discrimination in the language “because of sex” also creates potential gray areas as to exactly who the law protects.  Generally, however, a person either is in a protected class or is not.   This recent case from a Michigan federal court flags…

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25 Mar 2015 The Church of a Good Night’s Sleep? One Court Says No.

There is a growing philosophical debate in some circles about whether atheism is itself a religion. At least one California appellate court has now weighed in with an answer.  In Copple v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Marshel Copple founded his own branch of atheism called Sun Worshipping Atheism, a religion of which he is the sole member.  The central beliefs of Sun Worshipping Atheism are sleeping eight or more hours a day, getting fresh air daily, exercising frequently, having a job, being social…

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09 Mar 2015 More EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch: Why No Disability Accommodation Angle?

As Jeanine Gozdecki posted here, the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in the case involving the scope of an employer’s obligation, if any, to initiate religious accommodation discussions with an applicant who was wearing clothing that would violate the company’s apparel policy but that would seem to be being worn for religious purposes. The federal court of appeals that heard the case seemed to say the company had no affirmative obligation, it had not discriminated if the applicant did not raise the issue….

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26 Feb 2015 Who Knew? U.S. Supreme Court Justices Offer Employment Tips

It was Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who offered the first tip: “So why can’t the employer just simply say, ‘We have a Look Policy that doesn’t permit beards? Can you comply with that policy?’”   Justice Samuel Alito refined the suggestion; instead of asking whether an applicant can comply, he said, “Just say ‘Do you have any problem with that?’”   These surprisingly practical strategies might be the best take-away from the legal battle of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the case where dress…

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23 Jan 2015 Man Claiming Hand Scanning Time Clock Causes “Mark of the Beast” Wins Religious Discrimination Suit

Last week, a federal jury in West Virginia found in favor of a plaintiff claiming that his coal mining employer discriminated against him based on his religious beliefs by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for his religious objection to the company’s use of a biometric hand-scanning time clock. The plaintiff was an evangelical Christian who believed that the use of the hand scanner was discussed in the Book of Revelation in the Bible when it described the Antichrist as causing all to have a…

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19 Sep 2014 Jehovah’s Witness’s Claims Highlight Employer Need to Manage Workplace Religion Issues LETTER OF THE LAW: CURRENT EMPLOYMENT LAW ISSUES A-Z

  A “split decision” on a Jehovah’s Witness’s claims against his university employer serves as a good refresher for employers on the issues they must be aware of in dealing with employee religious issues.  For this week’s letter of the law, J is for Bernard Westbrook, the Jehovah’s Witness who brought these claims.  The decision from a federal district court in North Carolina can be found here.   Bernard Westbrook was first employed by North Carolina A&T University in 1994, and first began working for…

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15 Aug 2014 When “I Love You” May Be Too Much

  Normally, the words “I love you” make a person feel good, happy, confident and host of other emotions. However, in the employment context, saying these three little words can cause a host of potential issues for both employers and employees. Typically, as employment attorneys, we see these words leading to claims of sexual harassment. But, now it appears saying “I love you” (among other things) also can create a claim of religious discrimination.   In June of this year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity…

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