• Key point 8-08.1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers engaged in commerce and having at least 15 employees from discriminating in any employment decision on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, or religion. Religious organizations are exempt from the ban on religious discrimination, but not from the other prohibited forms of discrimination.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
* A federal court in the District of Columbia ruled that a religious organization could not be sued by a former employee for religious discrimination, but it could be sued for national origin discrimination. A Native American female was employed as an executive secretary by a denominational agency. She was terminated due to insubordination, and sued the agency for religious and national origin discrimination. In particular, she alleged that she had been dismissed on account of her religion in violation of federal law. She claimed that she was not a member of her employer’s denomination but felt pressured to participate involuntarily in the religious services and practices of affiliated churches which she found offensive. A federal court ruled that the agency was not liable for religious discrimination, since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 exempts religious organizations from the ban on religious discrimination in employment. The court ruled that this exception applies to all phases of the employment relationship, including termination. Religious organizations “may choose to employ members of their own religion without fear of being charged with religious discrimination.” However, the court allowed the woman’s national origin discrimination claim to proceed. Hopkins v. Women’s Division, General Board of Global Ministries, 238 F.Supp.2d 174 (D.D.C. 2002).
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