The Bell Foundry

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A&E’s Phil Robertson Suspension: an EOE Perspective


While the suspension of Phil Robertson from A&E may not be a 1st Amendment violation from Congress, it could be a violation of the Civil Rights and the Equal Opportunity for Employment Act.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm

Without knowing the details of the contract Phil Robertson signed with A&E, we as the public will not know for certain if Phil was actually in violation of his contract, or if A&E violated Mr. Robertson’s civil rights when suspending him indefinitely. What is of great concern is the potential precedent of this outright religious discrimination from A&E in which the public and possibly other employers could interpret as perfectly legal.

eoeThe Equal Opportunity for Employment Act ensures that Americans cannot be not be hired or fired on the basis of religion. This means that it is illegal for an employer to prohibit and/or fire an employee for his or her religious beliefs and convictions, or for sharing their beliefs and practices of worship outside of work. When an employee is on their own time, and not on work campus grounds, they have the ‘civil right’ to carry on their lives and religious convictions in the way in which they choose.  This concept is FUNDAMENTAL to American core values: the pilgrims sought religious freedom as they came over on the Mayflower.

Again, without knowing the confines of the contract, if Phil Robertson was not on the A&E set and gave the interview on his own time, then this may give Phil a cause for a wrongful termination of employment suit. Although the Equal Opportunity for Employment Act does require an employer to provide an atmosphere of tolerance and accommodation (such as time off for certain religious observance days), an employer can require that you do not voice your religious views while you are at work.

If Phil Robertson did the interview with GQ magazine outside of work hours and off any grounds in which A&E may consider an employment ground, then he was “indefinitely suspended” for just being himself, practicing and expressing his faith, which is a violation of his civil rights and wrongful termination of employment.  Furthermore, it could also be argued in a court of law that he was under the impression that he could express his religious views because A&E had previously allowed all other expressions of faith and religious beliefs of Phil Robertson and his family to be shared on the successful reality show Duck Dynasty – which was on the set of A&E and during ‘work time’. Therefore, A&E had indeed implied that Phil Robertson’s expression of religion/faith, and beliefs were permitted at work.  Not only were they permitted, these expressions aided the success of the show because many American families identified with the Robertsons’ faith.  Therefore A&E actually benefited financially from the Robertsons’ expression of beliefs that resulted in high show ratings. Many Americans sport Duck Dynasty paraphernalia, which is free advertisement for A&E.

Robertson’s dismissal has been declared by a large portion of the public as unnecessary – whether they agree Robertson or not.  I’d wager that most Americans cherish their civil rights and freedom of speech, and recognize that every American should practice and retain those rights. The Liberal Media has and can say just about anything they wish that is offensive to Conservatives, yet a cable network has fired a Conservative for expressing his beliefs to an interviewer of a completely separate media outlet. This display of holier-than-thou hypocrisy is jaw-dropping and chilling, in light of the possibility that this could set precedence for other cases of the like.

I work for a Fortune 500 company. If I decide to express my religious beliefs in public, on my own time and off campus grounds, and my beliefs are not the same as the company for which I work, can they reprimand me and ‘suspend’ me ‘indefinitely’? ABSOLUTELY NOT!  That would be a violation of the Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964, which safeguards my right to religious freedom (a founding principle of American Government), ensuring that I can have an Equal Employment Opportunity.

In summation:  if Phil Robertson did not violate the conditions of his contract he signed with A&E, I believe that he should file a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to not only hold A&E accountable to their superficial pious double standard, but also to not allow this incident to set precedence for other employers who decide they feel their employees religious beliefs and expressions do not agree with theirs. My employer has no business or right to tell me what I can and can’t say, believe, worship, and practice outside of work.

For your reference:

The EEOC’s definition of Religious Discrimination from: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/religion.cfm

Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.

Religious Discrimination & Work Situations

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Religious Discrimination & Harassment

It is illegal to harass a person because of his or her religion.

Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Religious Discrimination and Segregation

Title VII also prohibits workplace or job segregation based on religion (including religious garb and grooming practices), such as assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or feared customer preference.

Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation

The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.

Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.

Religious Accommodation/Dress & Grooming Policies

Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer’s operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. These might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). It also includes an employee’s observance of a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts).

When an employee or applicant needs a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, he should notify the employer that he needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. If it would not pose an undue hardship, the employer must grant the accommodation.

Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship

An employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.

Religious Discrimination And Employment Policies/Practices

An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.

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This entry was posted on December 22, 2013 by in American History, Current Events, OpEd and tagged , , , , .
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