WASHINGTON (BP)–The federal agency charged with enforcing civil rights laws as they relate to employment says the Ohio affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
That law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says the Ohio Education Association, an affiliate of the NEA, violated the religious protection provision of the law in the way it dealt with teacher Dennis Robey’s request for a religious accomodation.
Robey notified union officials beginning in 1995 that he objected to supporting the organization because it “promotes pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality positions and constantly attempts to interfere with parental rights,” according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW), which is assisting Robey in his claim.
Title VII prohibits union officials from forcing employees to pay dues to the union if doing so would violate the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The law allows the employee to designate an “agreed upon charity” to receive the portion of dues that would normally be spent on objectionable activities.
The Ohio teacher claims that, during the 1999-2000 school year, union officials rejected his established claim of a religious objection. He was required to complete an annual form that included “probing questions about his personal relationship with God, [and] his ‘religious affiliation,'” in addition to requiring the signature of a “religious official” attesting to the validity of the statements Robey made on the form.
Michael Fetzer, district director of the EEOC’s Cleveland field office says the union did originally attempt to accommodate Robey’s request, but that it did not comply with the law.
“The amount of time it took [the union] to accommodate [Robey] and other religious objectors as a class was unreasonable,” he wrote in a May 13 letter to the parties. “The unnecessary delay in accomodating [Robey] is excessive, which violates Title VII.”
Fetzer also addressed the annual form demanded of Robey.
“This requirement had a disparate impact on individuals who hold sincerely held religious beliefs that conflict with various union activities,” he continued. “Once an individual is on record that he/she objects … he/she should not be required to reiterate the objection on an annual basis.”
NRTW agrees with the EEOC that the annual filing requirement is an undue burden on employees, and fears thousands of other teachers nationwide are facing the same kind of treatment.
“The NEA union’s illegal scheme is intended to force teachers of faith to shut up and pay up,” charged Stefan Gleason of the NRTW Legal Defense Foundation.
Gleason claims the “Letter of Determination” issued by the government “further underscores that the nation’s largest teachers union is systematically persecuting people of faith.”
Kathleen Lyons, spokeswoman for the NEA, told CNSNews.com that they have not yet received the EEOC’s letter. “Until we’ve had a chance to look at that letter and review it, it’s really inappropriate for us to make any comment,” she said late Monday.
EEOC procedures dictate that once a determination of a violation is made, the agency offers the offending employer the opportunity to enter into an arbitration process called “conciliation.” If the employer refuses, or if no agreement can be reached to eliminate the violation, the EEOC will then determine whether it will file suit against the employer.
The agency does not comment on cases that are pending before it, unless it is currently pursuing the matter in court.
Johnson is the congressional bureau chief with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.