Friday, July 10, 2015

Employee Who Refused Work In Unit Performing Abortions Loses Title VII Suit

In Montgomery v. Cook County, (ND IL, July 1, 2015), an Illinois federal district court dismissed a Title VII religious discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by a medical center employee who was fired after she refused an assignment change that would require her to spend half her time in the reproductive health unit of the Planned Parenthood facility at which she was employed.  She objected on religious grounds to work in the unit that performed abortions, and said she understood from the time she was hired that this concern would be respected. The court held that plaintiff had not alleged facts showing that she was fired "because of" her religious beliefs.  The court conceded that "even if an employer does not intentionally discriminate against an employee, an employer may still be liable under Title VII for failure to accommodate the religious needs of its employees." However here, according to the court:
[Plaintiff] failed to allege any facts regarding whether a request to accommodate [her] beliefs was made... and whether Defendants tried to accommodate [them].... Based on these allegations, I cannot reasonably infer that Defendants failed to try to accommodate Plaintiff's religious beliefs to keep her employed.
It thus dismissed the discrimination claim without prejudice.

The court also rejected Plaintiff's retaliation claim, holding: "Plaintiff has neither plead that she engaged in protected activity nor alleged a substantial link between any protected expression and her termination."