- An employee’s religious beliefs did not conflict with his employer’s mandatory DEI training, a federal jury concluded March 3 (Brennan v. Deluxe Corporation, No. 1:18-cv-02119 (D. Md. March 3, 2022)).
- The plaintiff, a born-again Christian, told a Deluxe Corporation HR manager that his beliefs "did not allow him to choose the answers required by [the employer’s] Ethics Compliance course." The employer first implemented a 1% percent salary deduction for his failure to complete the course, he said, and later fired him.
- A federal district court judge allowed his religious accommodation claim to proceed, but the jury ultimately rendered a verdict for the employer. It agreed that the plaintiff had a sincerely held religious belief of which his employer was aware, but determined that his belief didn’t conflict with the company’s employment requirement.
The fact pattern in Brennan may have some lessons for other employers adopting DEI and anti-harassment trainings.
The course in question offered Deluxe Corp. employees a list of behaviors and asked them to identify which would likely constitute harassment of a transgender co-worker.
When the plaintiff refused to answer the question as required, an HR manager sent him an email explaining that the training was an integral part of the employer’s inclusion and nondiscrimination efforts. "It is important that as an employee of Deluxe you recognize that we do not expect you to change your values or beliefs but rather, as an employee, your behaviors at work are expected to uphold Deluxe’s standards and values," the HR manager wrote.
That response is exactly how HR pros should address such complaints, employment experts have said. Employers are generally free to set inclusion policies that dictate how workers treat each other, mandating proper pronoun use, for example; employees may make religious accommodation requests, but an employer must limit adjustments to avoid stigmatizing other workers, one attorney previously told HR Dive. Instead, HR can communicate just as Deluxe Corp. did that an employer isn’t aiming to dictate workers’ beliefs — just workplace behaviors.