4

I want to be a bit vague on specific details and names as this is an active legal issue but in the state of Utah I was terminated a few months back after a couple years of employment for my significant other's religion. To be clear, I do not belong to that religious group, the predominate religion of Utah, though my S/O does as does my former supervisor. When my supervisor dug into it and found out her religious affiliation he was heavily critical of her, and terminated me shortly after a discussion where he was quite critical of our relationship and was abusive in his thoughts on her.

I am filing with the UALD & EEOC jointly, however I am looking for some statutes and rulings relevant to this to help strengthen my argument in this case against my former employer as this case is somewhat unusual. Most notably I am not being discriminated because of the specifics of my own religion, or of not belonging to a particular religion but because I am dating someone of a particular religion while I do not belong to it myself. The more conservative members of this particular religion, as communicated to me by my supervisor, believe that they should not be in inter-faith relationships.

  • Just to be clear--are you the opposite gender of your girlfriend? – mkennedy Jun 11 '19 at 18:06
  • @mkennedy I am, however because we are not married he made some assumptive commentary about us residing together and alluded to how it is sexually inappropriate (we were not residing together at the time) – nghs Jun 11 '19 at 18:10
  • Is the employer a private business, or some sort of government sponsored or government-run organization? Different rules apply to the latter. Is it a small, even family business, or a large corporate outfit? Some anti-descrimination rules apply only to firms over a specific size – David Siegel Jun 11 '19 at 18:25
  • 1
    @DavidSiegel a publicly traded multinational with several hundred employees – nghs Jun 11 '19 at 18:25
  • Have you looked at Federal Court rulings for your district (I think 9th district but don't hold me to that). What is your supervisor's religion? Is it the same one as your girlfriend? – hszmv Jun 11 '19 at 20:36
2

Utah laws Title 34A (Utah Labor Code), Chapter 5 (Utah Antidiscrimination Act) Section 106 (Discriminatory or prohibited employment practices) provides that:

(1) It is a discriminatory or prohibited employment practice to take an action described in Subsections (1)(a) through (g). (a)

(i) An employer may not refuse to hire, promote, discharge, demote, or terminate a person, or to retaliate against, harass, or discriminate in matters of compensation or in terms, privileges, and conditions of employment against a person otherwise qualified, because of:

...

(F) religion;

It does not say "the employee's religion".

However, under subsection (3)(a) of section 106, if religion (or any of the other categories protected under subsection (1)(a) is a bona fide occupational qualification, it may be the basis of a decision to hire, fire, or other employment actions.

Section 106 does not apply to religious organizations, in any of various organizational formats, according to section 102. An employer is defined in section 102(1)(I)(i) as:

a person employing 15 or more employees within the state for each working day in each of 20 calendar weeks or more in the current or preceding calendar year.

(In addition to various governmental organizations)

Nothing in section 106 specifically mentions discrimination because of the religion of a spouse or dating partner. But it does say "because of religion" without saying whose.

This Utah Government site has addiitonal information.

Note also that even where it is found that an employer did not in fact unlawfully discriminate, if an employee complains about what the employee believes in good faith to be unlawful employment practices, and the employer takes adverse actions because of such complaints, that may still be unlawful retaliation. The case of Viktron v. Labor Comm. Case No. 20000386-CA (2001 UT App 394) deals with such a case. Other sources have suggested that retaliation is sometimes easier to prove than the initial act of discrimination is.

Most large multi-national companies have internal anti-discrimination policies, often ones stricter than any law requires. The one i work for makes it very clear that any such action should be reported to HR or to a designated high-level office, and promises that serious action will be taken against managers enraging in such discrimination. It has even distributed videos in which various employees describe how they reported such improper practices and how the company responded.

Of course, I don't know how your former employer's policies on such things read, or how they are enforced in practice. But it might be that going over the head of the supervisor would resolve this without legal action. In some cases, publicity can induce a company to "do the right thing" when it might not be legally compelled to.

This story in the Salt Lake Tribune Discusses the UALD and the state of enforcement of the law.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Thank you. I do know the UALD had a paragraph on their website stating it is discrimination to punish or dismiss anyone for associating with anyone of a particular religion but haven't found any particular law or ruling that verifies that. I will also refer to the handbook i was emailed at the date of hire. – nghs Jun 11 '19 at 19:35
  • Yeah, more to the point, he is discriminating against you on basis of religion, even if it is not specifically your religion, it is his antagonism to you for not sharing in his own opinions of said religion by dint of the fact that you are in a relationship with a practitioner. It would be helpful if you could include any thing on his own religious affiliation? Or lack there of? Is he in general anti-religious? – hszmv Jun 11 '19 at 20:33
  • He is very religious, rather outspoken about that and is upset that I date a girl in the same religion as him while I dont belong to it myself. – nghs Jun 11 '19 at 20:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.