Federal judge reincarnates atheist’s religious bias claims

And the Czech judge scored my lede a 4.3. Well, the second she starts paying my legal bills, maybe, I’ll give a damn. Until then…

What was I talking about? Oh yes, religious discrimination.

Over the weekend, I read this PA federal court opinion about an atheist who claimed that his boss proselytized to him about religion, even forcing him to wear a badge, which bore the company’s mission statement: “This company is not only a business, it is a ministry. It is set on standards that are higher than man’s own. Our goal is to run this company in a way most pleasing to the lord [sic]….”  The atheist claims that he covered up the mission statement with duct tape and, when he refused to remove the tape, the company fired him.

The Court, which initially put the kibosh on the plaintiff’s religious bias, reconsidered and allowed the plaintiff’s claims to survive a motion to dismiss.

The plaintiff resigned. Or did he?

When, at first, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim that his former employer failed to accommodate his sincerely-held beliefs, it relied upon certain conclusions reached in state unemployment compensation proceedings. Namely, the state determined that the plaintiff had voluntarily resigned his employment. Thus, the federal court determined that the plaintiff could not re-litigate these issues.

Well, that is, until the plaintiff eventually pointed out that no findings of fact or conclusions of law in an unemployment compensation proceedings are binding or conclusive in any subsequent action or proceeding. So, the court reversed course and allowed the plaintiff to pursue his religious discrimination claims.

Don’t place much emphasis on unemployment compensation proceedings.

Compare an unemployment compensation proceeding with a federal discrimination action. The issues are different. The burdens of proof are different. So, the legal conclusions don’t really line up. That’s not to say that what transpires at an unemployment compensation hearing is entirely irrelevant. Indeed, a plaintiff’s testimony under oath could be used to impeach her later.

Beyond that, well, what happens at u/c doesn’t bear much on a federal discrimination claim.

 

 

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