Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Pretextual Religious Reasons For Firing Not Protected By Religious Autonomy Doctrine

In Garrick v. Moody Bible Institute, (ND IL, Oct. 13, 2020), an Illinois federal district court allowed a former Instructor of Communications at Moody Bible Institute (MBI) to move ahead with her Title VII disparate treatment and retaliation claims, but not her hostile work environment claim. Plaintiff Janay Garrick says she encountered rampant gender discrimination and harassment, and that MBI used disagreement with her religious views as a pretext for her firing. Rejecting in part MBI's religious autonomy defense, the court said:

Garrick alleges that Moody expected female teachers of secular subjects to perform more demanding duties and submit to more onerous performance reviews than similarly situated male teachers.... Under those circumstances, a reasonable inference can be made from the allegations that Moody fired Garrick because it held female teachers to higher standards than their male counterparts, not because it disapproved of her egalitarian religious views.

The court had dismissed an earlier version of plaintiff's complaint on church autonomy grounds. (See prior posting.)