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Title VII – Prohibits Employer from terminating Employee for religious social media posts

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March 25, 2024 by Tom Roberts, Esq.

March 2024 – Federal Law Suit filed against Employer terminating an Employee for religious social media posts.

Andrew Bodoh, Esq. of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C., a Virginia civil rights law firm, has filed suit in federal court against the Virginia Education Association (VEA) on behalf of a terminated employee to protect her right to religious freedom in the face of workplace discrimination.

Hostile to traditional Judeo-Christian Values

Virginia Education Association is a union of more than 40,000 teachers and school support professionals.

The allegations of the lawsuit.

Thirty-seven days after hiring Darcy Burgess as a labor organizer, the VEA fired her, once coworkers found pre-employment posts on her ministry’s website and social media pages expressing her religious views concerning same-sex attraction and homosexuality. The ministry, called Compassion Without Compromise, was a religious ministry set up by her to address issues of same-sex attraction and to help the church.

Ms. Burgess even offered to remove the post the VEA pointed out to her as concerning, at no cost to the VEA.

The lawsuit, Burgess v. Virginia Education Association, Inc., 3:24-cv-00215, is pending in the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division.

The Law Prohibits Discrimination In the Workplace Based on Religion

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment based on various factors, including religion. This means that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on their religious beliefs or practices. Employers are required to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business operations. Title VII’s protections against religious discrimination extend to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, and other terms and conditions of employment.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Groff v. DeJoy, 143 S. Ct. 2279 (2023), held that “that an employer must show that the burden of granting a[] [religious] accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.”

Often employees mistakenly believe that they have “freedom of speech” in private employment – they do not.  Government employees when speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concerns have protections.  Private employees have only limited protections for religion.

Comments by Civil Right Attorney Andrew T. Bodoh

“Federal law prohibits the VEA from discriminating against its employees on the basis of religion,” says attorney Andrew T. Bodoh, the lead attorney for Ms. Burgess in this lawsuit. “Religion is not merely a belief, to be hidden away in the recesses of the heart. It is also the way we act on that belief in this secular world.”

“Unfortunately, employers usually can act as thought-police,” explains Bodoh. “They can fire an employee for expressing an opinion the employer does not like. But federal law often requires an employer to tolerate behavior that is religiously motivated even if it would not tolerate it if it were not religiously motivated. Secular employers do not get to dictate their employees’ religious creed, even when they want to.”


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