… or so say the folks over at Liberty Counsel:
Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “Macy’s policy which allows men to use the women’s dressing room is fraught with problems. This policy will cause significant problems and will alienate the majority of Macy’s customers. Macy’s has essentially opened women’s dressing rooms to every man. The LGBT agenda has become the theater of the absurd.”
Some background on Staver’s statement: A Macy’s employee in San Antonio, Texas was fired after she refused to abide by the store’s LGBT policy that allows transgendered people to use both male and female dressing rooms. Natalie Johnson, the employee in question, saw someone whom she perceived to be a “cross-dressing young man” exit the women’s dressing room. She told him that he could not reenter, saying that only women could use the women’s dressing room. When informed that Macy’s is LGBT-friendly, Ms. Johnson responded that “Macy’s is also non-discriminatory toward religion, and that it would go against her religious beliefs to lie that he was a woman or compromise with homosexuality.”
“Compromise with homosexuality”? What?!
Still, and it pains me to admit this, Ms. Johnson might have a point. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination of employees on the basis of religion. In addition to prohibiting the hiring and firing of employees based on religion, Title VII requires that employers “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s “sincerely held religious beliefs,” so long as doing so would not cause the employer “undue hardship.”
No lawsuit has been filed in this case, so the facts are a little sparse, which means that it’s hard to tell what, if anything, Macy’s might have been able to do to accommodate Ms. Johnson, or whether doing so would have resulted in undue hardship to the store. Perhaps Macy’s could have moved Ms. Johnson to another area of the store (one that did not require her to manage dressing rooms), or could have moved her to a desk job off of the sales floor.
This is a complicated and often emotional area of the law. I suspect that the law was designed to require employers to accommodate yarmulke-wearing, prayer breaks, etc. And that sounds totally reasonable to me. But when I first learned of this story, I was reminded of pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, and of clerks who refuse to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
With this case as no exception, I think that firing employees who outright refuse to do their jobs should be an acceptable practice. But where is the line between refusal to do one’s job and merely requesting a religious accommodation?
Is the threat of religious discrimination in the workplace substantial enough that this element of Title VII makes sense?