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Third Thursdays with Ruthie: The Intersection of Religion and Labor Law

In this episode of the Third Thursdays podcast, Ruthie Goodboe examines how religious discrimination and accommodation intersect with traditional labor law. She will cover religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, best practices for handling requests for religious accommodation when an employee is governed by a collective bargaining agreement, and how Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act comes into play with religious accommodation.

Supreme Court Ruling Clears Way For $350K Religious Bias Jury Award

Following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court several months ago allowing a former employee to pursue a religious discrimination claim, a Texas federal jury recently ordered her former employer to pay her $350,000. The November 1 jury verdict came after the Supreme Court permitted her to pursue a claim under Title VII despite her failure to include the claim in her original charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The verdict reaffirms the risks and significant costs employers face in defending a claim — even one never filed with the EEOC — if it does not move to dismiss a complaint for failure to exhaust or, at a minimum, include this as an affirmative defense when answering the complaint.

Two Federal Courts Strike Down Health and Human Services ‘Conscience Protection Rule’

Two federal courts have struck down the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) “Conscience Protection Rule,” which was slated to go into effect on November 22, 2019.

Hospital Settles Claim of Religious Discrimination Based on Applicant’s Refusal of Flu Vaccine

The EEOC announced that it reached a $74,418 settlement with a hospital in Owosso, Michigan, to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit the agency had filed under Title VII against the hospital in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. See https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USEEOC/bulletins/24d7ec9; and https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/2-14-18.cfm.

HHS’s Conscience Rule Scheduled for Implementation on July 22, 2019

On May 21, 2019, the Federal Register published the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) final rule titled Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care (Conscience Rule), which addresses the rights of individual healthcare employees who object to participating in medical procedures that violate their consciences, as well as the rights of faith-based healthcare institutions to provide services consistent with their religious mission and identity.

No Taxation With Religious Invocation: Seventh Circuit’s Decision to Impact Ministerial Employees

In Gaylor v. Mnuchin, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a tax code exemption for religious housing of ministers does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The decision has a direct impact on religious employers and their ministerial employees as well as a potential impact on secular employers that provide housing allowances for their employees.

Major Religions - 2019 Holiday Calendar

Executive Summary: With Spring around the corner, many employers will begin to receive varying requests for religious accommodations related to the upcoming religious holidays. These requests often conflict with the employer’s work hours/days or employment duties. Employers who outright refuse an employee’s request for accommodation to celebrate these religious holidays may put the company at risk of a claim for religious discrimination. Federal and state laws do not require that an employee be given paid time off for a religious holiday. However, federal law does require an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation for the religious beliefs of an employee, if the accommodation does not create an undue burden for the employer. Courts look at a number of factors in determining whether the requested accommodation is reasonable. Each request for religious accommodation should be reviewed individually to determine if an accommodation can be made. If the accommodation cannot be made the employer must be able to demonstrate that the religious accommodation creates an undue hardship.

Appeals Court Rejects Retaliation Claim Based On Religious Accommodation Request

In a case of first impression, a federal appeals court just found that an applicant’s request for a religious accommodation did not constitute protected activity under Title VII for the purpose of establishing a retaliation claim. Under the 8th Circuit’s November 13 ruling, the appropriate avenue to challenge an employer’s denial of a religious accommodation request under Title VII is by filing a disparate treatment claim, not through a retaliation cause of action. What can employers take from the EEOC v. North Memorial Health Care decision?

Steal Trade Secrets, Get Cut: BladeRoom Jury Bleeds Emerson Electric to the Tune of $30 Million

A California federal jury recently decided that Emerson Electric Company owes prefabricated module manufacturer BladeRoom Group Limited $30 million in damages for stealing trade secrets to build a massive new data center.

Spring Is In The Air! But Telling Your Employees You Love Them Could Cost You $5 Million

19th-century British poet Alfred Tennyson once said, “In the Spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” And while you might hold a certain amount of affection for your employees this time of year and want to show them how much you care, you might want to refrain from saying “I love you” to them. That’s because an employer who did just that, and encouraged its workforce to share the same sentiments with coworkers on a regular basis, learned the hard way that such comments are not necessarily appropriate for the workplace.
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