Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Lawsuit of the Future? Born Again Christian Alleges Termination for Anti-Homosexual Article

Being an employer has never been easy, but in a world where personal communication on a wide spread basis is not only easy, but done daily by hundreds of thousands of individuals who are also often employees, and where there are increasingly hard-line positions on matters of politics, idealogy and religion, you know that conflicts are going to come and employers may often find themselves in the middle. Although looking at it solely from the outside, that may well be what happened in a case where a former Allstate employee alleges he was terminated for writing an essay "denouncing same-sex marriage and the 'destructive nature ... of the homosexual lifestyle.' " See the Chicago Tribune story, Did fiery essay get author fired?

J. Matt Barber says he was fired three days after his supervisors confronted him with his article, The Gay Agenda v. Family Values. The company says he was not fired for his off work expression of his personal views but because he used company "resources for his personal journalistic activities." His suit filed earlier this year in Chicago alleges his termination was religious discrimination.

While the facts and even the underlying legal basis are in dispute, what is not is that Allstate has been the recipient of what I am sure is unwanted attention based first on the article and then on Barber's termination. According to the Tribune story, the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian advocacy group in Washington, D.C., received complaints about the article and in turn asked Allstate whether it endorsed Barber's views. Following his termination, Barber's cause has been taken up by the American Family Association, which says its members have sent more than 246,000 emails to Allstate supporting Barber and demanding he be re-hired with backpay. Barber is represented by David Gibbs, III of the Florida-based Christian Law Association.

This volatile mix will only become more difficult if legislation that has been introduced for the last several Congresses by those on opposite ends of the political spectrum ever becomes a reality. See my earlier post, Workplace Religious Freedom Act - Consensus On Neither the Right Nor Left.

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