The scenario: After learning that her local labor union had participated in a march that supported abortion rights, a woman engaged in a series of Facebook posts expressing outrage that her union dues were being used to promote a cause that was in conflict with her religious beliefs.
One message posted to a Facebook group comprised of union members and company employees included a video of an aborted fetus with a message stating that union leadership was supporting murder.
Once the union learned of the posts, it contacted the woman’s employer. An internal investigation concluded that the staffer had violated the employer’s policies on workplace bullying and social media use.
She was terminated.
Legal challenge: The woman sued for religious discrimination, arguing that the company failed to engage in the interactive process to accommodate her religious beliefs and then terminated her because of those beliefs.
The ruling: The company lost. The court allowed the lawsuit to go to a jury, which awarded the woman $4.65 million in damages.
The jury decided that the woman provided adequate evidence that her religious beliefs weren’t accommodated and that she was fired because of her religious views, which were her primary motivation for opposing abortion.
The skinny: Steer clear of political or social activities that could antagonize any of your employees. You could get snared in a costly lawsuit if an activity runs afoul of an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs.
Cite: Carter v. Transport Workers Union of America and Southwest Airlines, U.S. District Court, N.D. Texas, No. 3:17-CV-2278-S (jury verdict).
(From the Aug. 26, 2022, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)