Friday, November 4, 2011

Gay Wedding Invitation is not Harassment - COTW #65

The employment law Case of the Week is Walker v. Jackson, an EEOC decision from October 6, 2011 (sorry, no link but if you have Westlaw it's 2011 WL 4889255). It answers the age old question - if I get invited to a same sex wedding celebration, was I subjected to religious harassment? If you answered, "are you freakin' kidding me?" then congratulations! You and the EEOC agree (OK, the EEOC was a little more delicate).

But what if I complained about it and then had to endure people congratulating the employee on his "marriage?" (use of "quotes" is the Complainant's thing, not mine). Still no? Yes, still no.

The Complainant received the following email via a work distribution list:
[Employee A] and his partner [named] are getting married this Sunday. The IO is sponsoring an informal celebration to congratulate [Employee A] on this happy event. Please feel free to drop by the IO conference room on Thursday, October 7 at 4:30 P.M. to wish them well.
This prompted the Complainant to respond (FYI -apparently a "Reply All"):
I feel your message announcing the celebration of the “union” of [Employee A] and his “Partner” was offensive and insensitive to my religious faith as a Christian. I think it is general knowledge that the Christian faith only condones “marriages” between men and women, not men and other men. As acting Office Director, I feel you could have been more “sensitive” and “neutral” with regards to this issue.
So, what do you think happened next? "The next day, NCEA employees sent approximately 15-20 emails on the global list-serve (including Complainant) congratulating Employee A on his marriage." But, "[n]one of these emails specifically mentioned Complainant or his email."

This is not religious harassment. The Complainant was invited to a voluntary social gathering, and the congratulatory emails did not mention the Complainant or challenge his religious beliefs. Apparently one private email did question his religious beliefs but that's not enough to constitute a "severe and pervasive" hostile work environment.

Case dismissed. HT: Volokh Conspiracy.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.