Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Denominational Agency Employee Sues for National Origin Discrimination
Employers generally cannot be sued for discrimination based on isolated comments.

Key Point 8-11. Employees and applicants for employment who believe that an employer has violated a federal civil rights law must pursue their claim according to a specific procedure. Failure to do so will result in the dismissal of their claim.

A federal court in Pennsylvania ruled that a denominational agency did not engage in unlawful "national origin" discrimination against a Romanian-born employee as a result of (1) a single comment that the employee heard another employee make about immigrant workers, and (2) a requirement that the employee have a doctor's note authorizing all future sick days. An American citizen of Romanian birth (the "plaintiff") was employed by a denominational agency for five years in the accounting department. From the beginning of her employment, the plaintiff's superiors complained about the quality and slowness of her work. At a meeting to address these complaints, the plaintiff alleged that two fellow employees engaged in an inappropriate conversation about immigrants after the presidential election in 2004. Specifically, she claimed that they pointed at her and said that the reason Americans do not have enough jobs is because President Bush brings immigrants to the United States. She filed a complaint with the human resources director, who investigated the matter and assured the plaintiff that any similar comments would not be tolerated.

After four years of employment, the plaintiff was informed that she must obtain a doctor's authorization for any future sick days. This requirement was due to concerns the plaintiff's superiors had concerning the number of sick days she was taking as well as discrepancies involving the number of sick days she took and the employer's payroll records.

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