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EEOC Reminds Employers of Limits on Workplace Proselytizing

    Client Alerts
  • August 18, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech protects a business from antidiscrimination laws when that company acts in accordance with its owner’s professed beliefs. The 303 Creative LLC case is the latest in a series of recent court decisions that move the pendulum away from the ability of governments to take action against people and companies that assert free speech rights regarding their religious practices as the basis for their conduct.

A recent settlement in a case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission demonstrates the limits of protections of religion when those protections result in alleged discrimination against employees with different beliefs. The lawsuit involved a North Carolina home service and repair company. The EEOC alleged that the company owner required employees to attend daily Christian prayer meetings. When several employees objected or refused to attend, the lawsuit claimed that they were reprimanded and eventually fired. The EEOC sued the employer, alleging violation of Title VII’s prohibition against religious discrimination.

Earlier this month, the EEOC announced that the lawsuit had been settled. The defendant agreed to pay $50,000 and to enter into a three-year consent agreement with the EEOC that includes training, new policies, and monitoring of its employment practices. The settlement serves as an example to employers that the Supreme Court’s tilt toward protection of religious speech, beliefs and practices, does not always extend to a business owner’s right to coerce employees to participate in the owner’s religion.

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