In a recent ruling out of an employment tribunal in Leicester, England, a doctor lost her religious discrimination case against her employer, the Northamptonshire Council Adoption Panel, after she abstained from voting on a matter she felt violated her religious beliefs.
Northamptonshire County Council’s Adoption Panel was to vote on putting adopted children in homes run by same sex families. Dr. Sheila Mathews, a member of the panel, sought permission to avoid voting. After her request, the panel dismissed her. Dr. Mathews sued the panel for religious discrimination, claiming that her Christian beliefs prevented her from pairing adopted children with same sex couples. According to BBC reports, the ruling tribunal denied her employment discrimination claim. Judge John MacMillan said, “there is simply no factual basis for the claims.” The judgment came after a 2-day hearing in the town of Leicester, during which Dr. Mathews expressed her belief that “Christian professionals, who seek to express professional judgment in the very best interest of children, are being silenced or discriminated against.” With help from the Christian Legal Centre, she has asked the Leicester tribunal to refer her case to the European Court of Justice.
Dr. Mathew’s position touched off heated debate among bloggers who follow employment discrimination, retaliation, and harassment cases.
Often “lightening rod” cases like Dr. Mathews’s compel observers to challenge their fundamental thinking about the law and about the rights of employees. For instance, should a Muslim woman be permitted to wear her Hijab on patrol as a police officer? Should she be allowed this fundamental religious expression? What if a superior denies her this expression? Does that constitute religious discrimination? Under what circumstances is it appropriate for an employer to deny an employee request on “religious” grounds? The nuances can get ferociously complex. And the ethical – even the philosophical — implications can take a while to tease out.
On a more practical note, if you or someone you love has been dealing with an issue of employer religious discrimination, harassment, retaliation, you can get excellent insight into your case by connecting with the attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum. Get a free consultation by calling (212) 688-5640, or examine timely and free resources at www.jhllp.com.