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Religious Discrimination Case Goes Forward Where Employer Questions Validity of Employee's Religious Belief

August 30, 2013

A recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania serves as a reminder to employers of the dangers of questioning the validity of an employee’s religious belief when making a decision regarding religious accommodation. In Ambrose v. Gabay Ent & Assoc., P.C., the employee, a devout Roman Catholic, refused to wear a badge containing a list of office rules under the title “Our Ten Commandments.”  The employee alleged that as a tenet of her Catholic faith, she only believes in the Ten Commandments set forth in the Bible and that the work badge directly contravened her Catholic faith.  Her employer refused to exempt her from wearing the badge.  Eventually, the employee was terminated, ostensibly for improperly rescheduling some patients.  In moving to dismiss the employee’s religious discrimination claims, the employer argued that the plaintiff’s objection to wearing the badge was a personal preference not entitled to protection under Title VII because the badge had nothing to do with religion and that there is “no deeply held Roman Catholic belief that prohibits or forbids adherents from wearing a name badge that characterizes secular guidelines as ‘Our Ten Commandments.’”  The Court held, however, the only issue is whether the employee’s belief is religious “in her ‘own scheme of things.’”  It does not matter whether most other adherents to the Roman Catholic faith would share the employee’s objection to wearing the badge.