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Kim Davis and Religious Conflicts in the Workplace

By Dan Atkerson on September 21, 2015

Male Female SymbolsClaiming she was acting “under God’s authority,” Kim Davis infamously refused to do her job earlier this month when she denied gay couples their new constitutional right to obtain marriage licenses. Ms. Davis’ actions invite the question: when is it okay to allow our religious beliefs to outweigh our employment obligations?

This isn’t the first time this question has been raised. Previous controversies such as nurses who refused to take part in abortions, pacifist post office workers who would not process draft registration forms, or a Muslim flight attendant who would not serve alcohol, are all other prime examples.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious beliefs so long as it doesn’t cause any “undue hardship” on the business. This means that unless it incurs more than a modest cost for the employer, they must not take any adverse action against you based on your religious beliefs.

In the examples listed above, employers made accommodations for the employees so that they were able to continue working, but skipping the part they object to. These accommodations were awarded either by trading duties with other employees or by filing a lawsuit which ended in employers making a settlement.

Now, when we start to look at Kim Davis’ situation, it is important to note that she is an employee of a U.S. government agency. Government agencies follow a slightly different rule called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This affords her slightly more protection in that under the RFRA, the government has to show that not only is there an undue hardship, but that her actions are causing harm to a government interest.

Ms. Davis has filed her claim against the state officials. If they decide that it is her legal duty to issue the marriage licenses under the U.S. Constitutional law, and that not doing so would represent undue hardship on the citizens of her county, as well as causing harm to a government interest, then she will not be given exemption from those duties.

Contact Dan A. Atkerson if you feel you have been a victim of religious discrimination. Let’s fight for your right to religious freedom provided to you by the United States Constitution.

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