Employees Are Taking Religious Discrimination Complaints to the Extreme
Employers have reason to be concerned with the increasing friction between liberal positions, like the right to contraceptives, and right-wing conservatives who allege discrimination or harassment when required to accommodate these beliefs.
One case that is unfolding now in Florida is a perfect example. In the case, a young woman, Sara Hellwege, a nurse- midwife, applied for a job with the Tampa Family Health Centers. She is a pro-life advocate, and has opposed the use of female contraception, including birth control pills. At the time of the interview, she was asked about her beliefs on birth control, and she replied that she would not be comfortable prescribing birth control pills to anyone who wanted it. She, in fact, confirmed that she would never prescribe the birth control pill, because it went against her personally held beliefs. Not surprisingly, she was informed that prescribing birth-control pills was going to be part of the job, and therefore, she could not be hired.
Now, Hellwege has filed a lawsuit against the Tampa Family Health Centers. In her lawsuit, not surprisingly, she’s backed by several Christian right organizations, including the Alliance Defending Freedom. Her lawsuit insists that Tampa Family Health Center’s refusal to hire her constitutes religious discrimination. According to her lawsuit, she must be hired by a family health planning clinic regardless of her positions on birth control.
California employment lawyers often find that religious discrimination lawsuits involve complicated and sensitive issues. Very often, these involve personal religious beliefs, religious dress, the inability to work on certain days of the week, special religious holidays, and other aspects that must be considered by employers. Employers must make accommodations, providing these do not pose an undue hardship to them.
Employers are responding to increasing pressure to expand protections to LGBT employees, but also find themselves in the firing line of Christian right organizations, and other conservatives. While cases like this may seem cut and dry, and the employer in this case may seem perfectly valid in his refusal to hire Hellwege, that’s not how it may play out in court. Speak to a California employment attorney about employment-related questions, and labor and wage laws as they apply to your workplace.