Bad news for employees who want to push religion in the workplace: Employers may legally demote an employee for discussing religion at work. In Hall v. Tift County Hosp., the District Court for the Middle District of Georgia rejected Plaintiff Pamela Hall’s religious discrimination claim arising out Defendant Tift County Hospital Authority’s discipline of her for sending a Christian-themed email to a gay co-worker.
In that case, Hall, a Baptist, discovered that one of her co-workers, Amanda Dix, was a lesbian. As a result, Hall placed a pamphlet entitled “How Should Christians Respond to ‘Gay’ Marriage?” in Dix’s work locker. Hall also sent a follow-up email to Dix, which read in part:
I saw that book in Kentucky when we went to the creation museum. I don’t want to hurt your feelings but I felt led to leave that for you and I would not be a true friend if I ignore the responsibility that God has left for his children to share the message and hold each other accountable…. Sodomy is a sin, gay people live in sin. It is not about self gratification…. When we are in God’s will we will WANT to live right and live for him and do what the Bible says and that is to go and tell! Everything else is not important…. There is only one way to heaven.
After receiving the pamphlet and email from Hall, Dix complained to Tift County. Tift County investigated the matter and ultimately demoted Hall from her position. In demoting Hall, Tift County told Hall: “We could not share our faith at work. We could not talk about Jesus at work.”
Hall sued Tift County, claiming that its discipline of her for discussing religion at work discriminated against her because of her religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Middle District of Georgia, however, disagreed with Hall. In dismissing Hall’s claim, the court held that Hall cannot make a prima facie case of disparate treatment because she has not presented any evidence that members outside of her protected class (non-Christian employees) were treated differently by Tift County following receipt of complaints of harassment. In other words, Plaintiff has not shown that any non-Christians were treated differently by Tift County. Held the Court: “The question is whether Plaintiff was discriminated against because of her religion — was she discriminated against because she is a Christian? Without producing any evidence of a non-Christian employee in the same job being treated differently after engaging in the same activity, Plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case.”
In fact, other Tift County employees were previously disciplined for sending disparaging emails to other employees. The court noted that in 2009, two employees were terminated for sending an offensive email to several other employees that specifically referenced the employees’ religion.
If you feel that you are being discriminated or harassed based on your religion or religious beliefs, the best course of action you can take is to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, you will meet with a religious discrimination attorney, who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them.
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