Speakers: Danielle Doza, Amy Ryder Wentz
Employers asserting religious rights in the workplace has become increasingly visible, a trend that is likely to continue following the Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby decision. There, the Court held for the first time that closely-held for-profit corporations are persons that may exercise religion within the meaning of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Although the reach of the decision remains unclear, it is certain to raise a host of novel issues. For example, because of its sincerely-held religious beliefs, might an employer choose to exclude coverage for blood transfusions or anti-depressant medications? Might it decline to promote a female employee if it means she would supervise male subordinates? Might it refuse to employ LGBT individuals?
Separately, an increasing number of religious institutions have required their employees to sign detailed “morality clauses,” requiring them to behave in a manner fitting the employer’s strict faith decrees. These institutions have threatened employees who refuse to do so or watched as employees quit in protest.
These and other instances of employers asserting their religious rights inevitably sets up a clash between employers running their workplaces consistent with their religious beliefs on the one hand, and employees seeking protection under anti-discrimination laws on the other. Amy Ryder Wendtz of the law firm of Littler Mendelson and Danielle O. Doza, past Policy Council with the ACLU of Ohio, will discuss these and other issues that pertain to the religious rights of employers, with particular focus on the actual and potential effect of Hobby Lobby on employee rights under anti-discrimination laws. In addition, the panel will discuss how attorneys might advise their clients in light of Hobby Lobby and the varied potential issues it raises.