Thursday, March 24, 2022

Mandatory LGBTQ Anti-Discrimination Training Did Not Violate Title VII

In Zdunski v. Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, (WD NY, Feb. 16, 2022), a New York federal district court dismissed Title VII and state law religious discrimination claims brought by Raymond Zdunski, an account clerk at the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.  BOCES required all of its employees to attend LGBTQ anti-discrimination training after one of its employees requested accommodation for gender transition.  Zdunski refused, contending that the training was aimed at changing his religious beliefs on gender and sexuality and that attending would violate his religious beliefs. He was fired for insubordination. The court said in part:

Mr. Zdunski has not presented any evidence that the trainings were directed toward him or other Christian employees in a discriminatory manner....

Here, Mr. Zdunski's proposed accommodation—that he be excused from the mandatory LGBTQ anti-discrimination training—amounts to more than a de minimis cost to his employer's business operations. BOCES is bound by New York State law to provide annual anti-discrimination trainings for all employees and to maintain "an environment free of discrimination and harassment." See N.Y. Educ. Law Tit. 1 Art. 2 §§ 10, 13. Allowing Mr. Zdunski's requested accommodation to forego anti-discrimination trainings would have put his employer in the position of violating the training requirements set forth in DASA. An accommodation that would require an employer to run afoul of state law constitutes a substantial hardship and would be more than a de minimis cost to the employer.