Columbus, Ohio (September 1, 2005) — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed an unprecedented lawsuit in federal court against the State of Ohio and a State agency for systemic discrimination against employees who object to union affiliation and the payment of dues on religious grounds. DOJ filed the suit after National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys brought repeated civil rights violations by State agencies to the attention of federal prosecutors.
An earlier charge, filed by Foundation attorneys on behalf of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) employee Glen Greenwood had already led to a finding by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that the OEPA and Ohio Civil Service Association (OCSA) union were guilty of religious discrimination against Greenwood who has sought to redirect his union dues to a charity and away from a union he believes to be involved in immoral activities. Despite the EEOC finding, the State’s agencies and OCSA union have maintained their practice of denying religious objections to the payment of forced dues from employees who are not members of certain State-approved churches.
The DOJ suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio names the State of Ohio, the OEPA, the Ohio State Employment Relations Board, the OCSA union, and the Ohio Department of Administrative Services as defendants.
Citing Greenwood’s case, the DOJ determined that the policies of Ohio represent a “pattern or practice” of religious discrimination against State employees in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Under Title VII, employees may not be forced to financially support a union if doing so violates the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. To avoid the conflict between an employee’s faith and a requirement to pay fees to a union he or she believes to be immoral, the law requires union officials to accommodate the employee – most often by designating a mutually acceptable charity to accept the funds.
“The unprecedented involvement by the United States Justice Department in a case of this nature demonstrates the seriousness of the abuse that Ohio employees face when they make conscientious objections to union membership,” stated Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason.
As a devout Presbyterian, Greenwood believes that supporting this union violates his sincerely held religious beliefs because of the union’s support for abortion on demand and special rights for homosexuals.
However, in March 2004 Greenwood received a letter from the General Counsel of the Department of Administrative Services denying his request on the basis that he did not belong to a “qualified” church that had a specific doctrine against union affiliation by church members.
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.