Worker Loses Religious Objection to Union Dues

     (CN) – An employee of an Indiana automaker failed to show that he was fired or disciplined for his religious objection to financially supporting the union, the 6th Circuit ruled. A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 to dismiss his case against the union.

     Jeffrey Reed, a worker at AM General in Mishawaka, withdrew from the union after deciding that he could not financially support the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Works of America (UAW) without violating his personal religious beliefs.
     AM General employees had to become union members or pay the union an agency fee equal to the amount of union dues.
     When Reed voiced his religious objections, the union told AM General to deduct from his pay a reduced agency fee that omitted any portion used for political expenditures.
     But Reed insisted that he could not support the union in any amount. The union then directed him to pay the full dues to one of three charities selected by UAW and AM General, and the union refunded him the amount he paid in agency fees.
     As a result of this arrangement, Reed ended up paying about $100 more charity than he had paid to the union in agency fees.
     He filed a Title VII lawsuit, claiming UAW failed to accommodate his religious objections to supporting the union.
     The district court dismissed for failure to establish a prima facie case, and the federal appeals court in Cincinnati affirmed.
     “We have declined to relieve a religious accommodation plaintiff of his burden to establish a prima facie case, including the requirement that he demonstrate that he has been discharged or disciplined,” Judge Batchelder wrote.
     “Because Reed has not shown any material adverse employment action, much less discharge or discipline, his religious accommodation claim fails.”
     Judge Guy wrote a concurring opinion to support the district court’s view that the union had reasonably accommodated Reed’s religious beliefs.
     Judge McKeague dissented, saying an adverse employment action – in this case, increased fees – should be all that’s required to establish a prima facie case.
     McKeague noted that the union had no power to discharge or discipline Reed.

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