Religious Discrimination: Court Finds that Requiring Employee to Wear Name Badge with Ten Commandments May Constitute Religious Discrimination

There are circumstances where an employee’s religious beliefs may be violated in the workplace. In a recent case, Ambrose v. Gabay Ent & Associates, P.C., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115353 (August 15, 2013)(Baylson, J.), the Court found that such an instance may exist where the Plaintiff employee alleged that in terminating her employment, her former employer discriminated against her on the basis of her religion and retaliated against her for complaining about religious discrimination. In Ambrose, the employee, a devout Roman Catholic, objected to wearing a name badge that contained a list of workplace rules under the heading “Our Ten Commandments” on religious grounds. The employee was instructed to wear the badge around her neck and/or chest and she promptly objected to doing so, stating that the list of commandments on the badge directly contravene those Ten Commandments she follows as a tenant of her Roman Catholic faith. After voicing her objection, the employer gave the employee a disciplinary notice for “failure to comply with new policy and state law in an unprofessional fashion” and threatened termination if she refused to wear the new badge. Less than two months after raising her initial objection, the employee was fired “for rescheduling some patients” which she routinely did without issue in the past.

The Plaintiff employee based her religious discrimination claim on a “failure to accommodate” theory” which requires her to show that (1) she holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with a job requirement; (2) she informed her employer of the conflict; and (3) she was disciplined for failing to comply with the conflicting requirement. The Court held that the Plaintiff can proceed with her claim because it is irrelevant that the employer intended the words “Ten Commandments” to be understood in their “vernacular sense” or that the rules listed on the badge did not discuss religion because Plaintiff’s objection was not based on the content of the language per se, but the requirement that she wear the language around her neck or on her chest.

The Court also found that Plaintiff had sufficient evidence to proceed with a viable retaliation claim because she engaged in protected activity (complaining about religious discrimination); the employer took an adverse employment action against her; and there was a causal connection between participation in the protected activity and the adverse employment action. The court also found that under applicable law Plaintiff is not required to prove the merits of her underlying discrimination claim to prevail on her religious retaliation claim. Instead, Plaintiff need only show that she “opposed conduct that a reasonable person could believe violated Title VII’s standard for unlawful discrimination.”

For more information on religious discrimination at the workplace and Abramson Employment Law see


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Filed under Employment Law, Religious Discrimination, Retaliation

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