Sunday, September 02, 2012

Denial of Unemployment Benefits To Seventh Day Adventist Held Unconstitutional

In Nyaboga v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, (MN App., Aug. 27, 2012), a Minnesota appellate court held that it is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause to deny unemployment compensation benefits to a nurse who was terminated from her position because of her absence for religious reasons.  Risper Nyaboga, a Seventh Day Adventist, previously worked Saturday shifts but became more observant after she was rebaptised. A record of tardiness and absence led to her firing.  None of the tardinesses and only a handful of the absences were for religious reasons. Most related to childcare issues.  She was warned that 2 more tardinesses or one more absence would lead to her firing. She was then terminated when she was absent on a Saturday on which she could not find another nurse to cover her shift. Thus, according to the court: "Although Nyaboga had a history of tardiness, the conduct that triggered her discharge was an absence for religious reasons."