Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Apparel and Religious Discrimination - COTW #72

I have a special holiday throwback Case of the Week for you: Kreilkamp v. Roundy's, Inc., 428 F. Supp. 2d 903 (W.D. Wisc. 2006). You know the holiday swag you often see retail workers wearing around this time of year? When stores force their employees to wear reindeer antlers, Santa pins, or sleigh bells, do they face religious discrimination liability?

Maybe. But, the employee claiming discrimination must: 1. hold a conflicting sincerely held religious belief; and 2. notify the employer. In Kreilkamp, the grocery store employer made its employees wear necklaces featuring Santa Claus, an angel, a snowman, or a gingerbread man. The plaintiff got the gingerbread man.

The plaintiff initially said he wouldn't wear it because he doesn't wear jewelry. He later changed his rationale by telling his employer that one of his birth parents was part Jewish. Plaintiff submitted the following statement:
I Thought about my next move, I Looked at Mark Elliot That my birth father was Jewish and I was Jewish. They Looked at me and was Told Not To use my faith to Keep from wearing The Christmas neckles.
The Court found that the "next move" comment strongly suggested that his expressed religious concerns were not legitimate. The Court also noted that the employee's statements about his part-Jewish parent failed to notify the employer that the employee himself held a conflicting religious belief.

Bottom line: Summary judgment for the employer.

Merry Christmas! I will return next week with a year-end blowout, featuring: Top entries of 2011, predictions for 2012, and the Case of the Year for 2011!

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.