Union Dues and Religious Do Nots

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WHAT THIS GUIDE COVERS–

Is your conscience troubled because you support a labor union? Do you think that God calls you to support one thing, and the union at work requires you to support something different? If this conflict with your religious beliefs involves union dues or fees, you have come to the right place for help!

A federal statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), is intended to resolve the conflict between religious beliefs and work requirements. This guide explains how an employee can take advantage of Title VII rights. While the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the constitutions of the various states, and individual state statutes are other potential sources of protection, they are not discussed here, or are only discussed in a very limited way.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation (“Foundation”) makes this guide possible. The Foundation has a single purpose: to defend employees against the abuses of compulsory unionism. Although this guide discusses in general terms the rights of religious objectors under Title VII, its focus is to help employees who find a conflict between their sincere religious beliefs and the requirement that they join or financially support a labor union.

The Foundation is not just a web site; it provides funding and a team of lawyers to protect employees nationwide against the abuses of compulsory unionism. Every decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the last 40 years in which an employee challenged compulsory unionism was litigated by Foundation lawyers. Over 90% of all published legal cases on the subject of compulsory unionism have been litigated by Foundation lawyers.

If, after reading this guide, you have questions about your rights as a religious objector to stand apart from a labor union, or need help to take the steps to obtain a religious accommodation, you can contact the Foundation in the following ways:

Phone: (800) 336-3600 or (703) 321-8510
Fax: (703) 321-9319
E-mail: legal@nrtw.org
Mail: 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 600, Springfield, Virginia 22160
Web: www.nrtw.org

If you have a work problem arising from your religious beliefs that does not involve compulsory unionism, do not contact the Foundation. Instead, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) (800-669-EEOC), or a local attorney.

AN INTRODUCTION TO TITLE VII–

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gives important rights to employees which protect their religious freedom in the workplace. Employers may not discriminate on the basis of religion against job applicants or current employees. Labor unions may not ask employers to discriminate against employees based on religion. Both the religious beliefs and religious practices of employees are protected by Title VII.

Title VII requires employers and unions to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship for the employer or the union. To read the relevant parts of Title VII click here.1

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court, in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. substantially changed the way Title VII religious discrimination cases are litigated. The Supreme Court determined that employer (or labor union) obligations to affirmatively accommodate religious practice in the workplace are integrated into the definition of religion. For example, if your religious beliefs prevent you from supporting a specific labor union, that is now a category of religion protected against discrimination. Another big change has to do with knowledge of the need for a religious accommodation. If an employer (or labor union) suspects an employee has religious objections to supporting a labor union, that suspicion triggers an obligation on the part of the employer or union to be willing to make a religious accommodation. These changes are discussed in more detail below.


   

1. The relevant parts of Title VII are as follows:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer–

  1. to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms or conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

  2. to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) & (2).

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for a labor organization-

  1. to exclude or to expel from its membership, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;

  2. to limit, segregate, or classify its membership or applications for membership, or to classify or fail or refuse to refer for employment any individual, in any way which would deprive or to tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or would limit such employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee or as an applicant for employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

  3. to cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of this section.

42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(c)(1), (2) & (3).

The term "religion" includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.

42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j).

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