First Liberty Institute files lawsuit against second-largest U.S.-based automaker after client is terminated for expressing his sincerely held religious beliefs
The story of a man who was unlawfully fired for expressing his religious beliefs is gaining national coverage after First Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit on his behalf earlier this month. The lawsuit alleges that a corporate giant and one of its contracting companies violated clear federal and state laws prohibiting religious discrimination against employees.
“We are hopeful that all Americans, both employers and employees, will become aware that the law protects the sincerely-held religious beliefs of employees,” said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Employees don’t leave behind their religious liberty rights when they enter the workplace, and employers must respect these legal rights or face consequences.”
The media coverage involves Mr. Thomas Banks, who worked for Ford Motor Company and one of its contracting companies, Rapid Global Business Solutions. Mr. Banks was fired last August after respectfully expressing his sincerely-held religious views in his comment in an online, intra-company forum. Little did he know that exercising his First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and free speech would cost him his job.
While the story is appalling, it is not isolated. Cases like this are now catching the attention of news outlets—and stirring the indignation of Americans everywhere.
MEDIA COVERAGE EXPLODES
Since the lawsuit was filed earlier this month, the story has resulted in abundant media coverage from news outlets across the nation. Here’s what some of these sources are saying about the case:
Mitch Albom, a local talk radio show host on WJR 760AM in Detroit, Mich., asked his listeners whether they agreed with the termination. The general consensus among the callers was that it was unjustified.
“If you don’t want people to complain about something, why are you having a comment section?”Albom asked, referencing the space at the bottom of the company’s article specifically intended for employers’ discourse. “It just seems weird to me that you can actually be let go for that [commenting].”
Patch.com covered the story, quoting the lawsuit:
According to the federal court petition, [client Thomas Banks] supports workplace inclusion and diversity.
“Banks respects others, even those who disagree with him, as he has throughout his career, and merely hopes for the same respect in turn,” the complaint says.
Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects individuals whose religious freedoms are violated, but sexual orientation and gender expression are not protected classes. Numerous attempts to expand the law have failed.
WTSP.com, a news website in Tampa Bay, Fla., shared the story from Detroit Free Press:
DETROIT (Detroit Free Press) — A contract engineer is suing his employer, as well as Ford (), for discrimination . . . .
Thomas Banks of Ypsilanti, Mich., filed a federal lawsuit against Rapid Global Business Solutions, an engineering and employment service in Troy, and Ford, where he had been on assignment at a Dearborn plant for more than three years.
Banks, who identifies himself as a Christian, claims his civil rights were violated because he was fired Aug. 4, 2014, after speaking up in defense of his religious beliefs . . .”
UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION EXPOSED
On behalf of Mr. Banks, First Liberty Institute—along with our volunteer attorney in Michigan, Timothy Denney—filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on January 28, 2015, charging Ford Motor Company and Rapid Global Business Solutions with religious discrimination and retaliation after the company fired Mr. Banks based on his religious beliefs.
On July 10, with First Liberty Institute and attorney Timothy Denney of Rickard, Denney, Garno and Associates by his side, Mr. Banks filed suit against his former employers.
“We are disappointed that Ford Motor Company terminated an employee solely because he expressed his faith to the company in a forum where input was solicited,” said Cleve Doty, First Liberty Institute Counsel. “Despite federal law protecting religious employees, Ford punished an employee for his beliefs rather than encouraging a truly diverse workplace where, like America, employees are free to express a wide range of religious and personal beliefs. At Ford, if you speak about your faith, you may be terminated—at least until Ford is held accountable.”
DISCRIMINATION NOT WORTH IT
This incident is just one in a line of instances of competent employees being stripped of their jobs because they expressed their religious beliefs. But each is a violation of the law. And the employers who have stepped outside the law are being opposed by expert attorneys, putting employers on the defense for their discriminatory actions:
Employers are finding that engaging in religious discrimination is unwise from both a legal and public relations standpoint. And employees are being made aware that they have religious rights that can be defended, and that good lawyers and even the media will be interested when those rights are violated.
It’s part of the ongoing struggle to sustain America as a place where people of faith are welcomed in the workplace according to the law, and recognized for the immense contributions they bring.
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