Instead of accommodating employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs as federal law requires, LIUNA union officials attempted to interrogate her about her religious beliefs
Clarksville, TN (February 4, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an employee of J & J Worldwide Service filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on the grounds that Laborers Local Union 576 (LIUNA) officials illegally discriminated against her because of her religious beliefs.
According to Dorothy Frame’s charge, she sought a religious accommodation so she would not have to fund the union in violation of her religious beliefs, only to have the union deny her request and illegally demand she “provide a theological defense.” Frame, who is Catholic, objects to having union fees deducted from her paycheck because she opposes the union’s stance on abortion. The charge will now be investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Frame works at Fort Campbell, a military installation on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. According to her charge, she sent LIUNA union officials a letter in July 2019 requesting a “religious accommodation of her objection to joining or financially supporting the union.” Frame’s charge notes that she believes abortion is “the unjustified destruction of a human life,” a belief that is rooted in “her understanding of Catholic teaching, scripture, and God’s will.” Because of those sincere beliefs and her knowledge that the union “funds and supports abortion,” her charge states that for her “it would be sinful to join or financially support the union.”
Frame had been a LIUNA member for four years before requesting an accommodation. According to the charge, she converted to Catholicism in 2017 and discovered the conflict between her religious beliefs and union officials’ position on abortion “shortly before she wrote her accommodation request.”
Although Kentucky and Tennessee both have Right to Work laws which ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary, Fort Campbell’s status as an “exclusive federal enclave” overrides those state laws. The monopoly bargaining contract between J & J Worldwide Service and the LIUNA union requires Frame to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. If she received the religious accommodation federal law requires, the portion of her paycheck that would normally go toward dues would be redirected to a charity that Frame and union officials both find acceptable.
Instead, LIUNA bosses rebuffed Frame’s request in August 2019, sending her a letter in which a union lawyer told Frame she would need to “provide a theological defense” of her beliefs to meet LIUNA union officials’ supposed standard for a “legitimate justification” for her accommodation request. Frame then provided a letter from her parish priest supporting her religious opposition to abortion, but, according to her charge, “the Union lawyer rejected this evidence based on his supposedly superior religious views.”
Frame’s Foundation-provided attorney also provided evidence to LIUNA officials that abortion violates the teachings of the Catholic Church, but her charge notes that union officials never responded to this additional evidence and continue to take money from her paycheck in violation of her sincere religious beliefs. Her charge alleges this violates her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against an individual based on his or her religious beliefs. If the EEOC finds merit in her charges, Frame could be given a “right to sue” letter, which authorizes her to file a federal lawsuit against LIUNA officials to vindicate her rights.
Foundation staff attorneys regularly aid workers that have been the subject of religious discrimination by union bosses. In November, Boston College electrician Ardeshir Ansari, a Muslim, filed an EEOC Title VII lawsuit with free Foundation legal assistance after Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) bosses continued to deduct fees from his paycheck despite his request for a religious accommodation.
“It is outrageous that LIUNA bosses are forcing Ms. Frame to choose between keeping her job and violating her sincere religious beliefs,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While such religious discrimination is a blatant violation of federal law, union boss demands in this case serve as a reminder why no worker in America should be forced to subsidize union activities they oppose, whether their opposition is religious-based or for other reasons.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.