Articles Tagged with religious discrimination

Federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination and prohibit employers from making employment decisions based on factors such as race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, and age. These laws also protect employees against retaliation. In other words, employers are prohibited from subjecting employees to negative employment decisions, such as termination or demotion, because an employee engages in “protected activity” such as filing a discrimination charge with a federal or state agency.  Sometimes, discrimination laws clash with Constitutional concerns.  Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the ministerial exception to religious discrimination claims.

In 2012, however, in Hosanna‐Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. E.E.O.C., the U.S. Supreme Court adopted the ministerial exception doctrine. This exception is an affirmative defense that an employer can use to defend employment discrimination lawsuits. The Supreme Court has recognized that while there isn’t a strict formula to decide when the exception applies, it is usually the role performed by the employee and the religious activities of the employer that determines whether the exception applies.

On March 7, 2018, New York’s federal circuit court in Penn v. New York Methodist Hospital, decided a case based on the application of the ministerial exception doctrine.

With many states declaring flu epidemics and with the spread of other communicable diseases, many employers, particularly in the health care industry, are requiring employees to receive vaccinations.  Employees rightfully have concerns about being forced to receive a vaccination and so a common question is whether employers can force employees to be vaccinated against the flu or other diseases.  Like most legal questions, the answer is not so simple.  Today’s Long Island employment law blog explores the issue of whether employers can require employees to be vaccinated.

Employment at Will

The starting point to many employment law questions is the fact those most states, including New York, are employment at will states.  Employment at will means that employers can hire or fire employees for nearly any reason at all, as long as the reason is not unlawful.  Unless the employee was able to negotiate a contract which sets the terms of employment, employees generally remain at will so employers are free to impose all kinds of conditions on employment. One of the conditions an employer may place on an employee is that the employee be vaccinated against diseases, such as the flu.  An employee may refuse to accept the vaccination, but in most cases, because the employee is “at will” the employer may fire the employee for not complying with a vaccination policy.

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