Instead of accommodating employee’s religious beliefs as required by federal law, SEIU union officials and college administrators repeatedly ignored and violated his rights
Boston, MA (November 20, 2019) — Ardeshir Ansari, an electrician who works for Boston College filed a Title VII religious discrimination lawsuit today against the college and Service Employees International Union 32BJ, District 615 (SEIU) with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense staff attorneys.
Ardeshir Ansari objects to supporting the union based on deeply held religious beliefs. Under the local SEIU’s monopoly bargaining agreement at Boston College, however, he was told that he must join or financially support the SEIU or be fired. To avoid being fired, Ansari paid fees to the union, despite his sincere religious beliefs. Ansari is invoking Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against an individual based on his or her religious beliefs.
On October 1st last year, Ansari sent a letter to Boston College and the SEIU informing them of how his religious beliefs conflict with joining or financially supporting the union. He asked that his union fees be diverted to charity instead of being sent to the union, which is a long-established remedy for such a conflict. Instead of responding, the college continued to take a cut of his paycheck and send it to SEIU officials in violation of his sincerely held religious beliefs.
In January this year Ansari filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the college and union officials, and the EEOC determined this summer that both Boston College and the SEIU had violated Title VII. In September, the EEOC gave Ansari a right-to-sue letter, which authorized him to file a lawsuit under Title VII against the college and the union.
Consequently, Foundation staff attorneys today filed a lawsuit on Ansari’s behalf against Boston College and the SEIU for illegally discriminating against Ansari for failing to reasonably accommodate his religious beliefs in violation of his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The lawsuit further alleges that because Boston College made paycheck deductions for the SEIU despite Ansari’s notice of religious objections, and because Ansari would have been fired if he did not pay the fees, their actions constitute quid pro quo religious harassment.
The lawsuit asks that the college and SEIU local pay all fees deducted from Ansari’s paycheck to a charity mutually agreed upon and pay Ansari for damages for the emotional distress he has suffered while his rights have been violated for more than a year. It also asks the court to prevent the college from continuing to discriminate against his religious beliefs and asks that the union be required to inform workers that those with religious objections to the payment of union fees are entitled to pay those fees to a charity instead.
“Workers who have sincere religious objections to joining or funding a union are legally protected from being forced to violate their conscience,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “No one should ever be forced to choose between keeping a job to provide for their family and violating their deeply held religious beliefs by supporting a union.”
“Ultimately, a Right to Work law that makes all union payments voluntary is the best solution to this type of illegal discrimination. That way, all workers who object to funding union activities are free to cut off such payments whether or not the nature of their opposition to the union is faith-based,” added Mix.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.