If union membership or dues payments violates the conscience of someone with religious beliefs, the law permits the worker to donate an amount equivalent to what they would otherwise pay dues to a non-religious charity.
Two workers in California recently wrote detailed letters to their union — the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) — quoting their religious text and citing examples of how union membership conflicts with their beliefs.
UE responded with an extensive questionnaire grilling the employees for personal details of their religious and non-religious lives. It included intrusive questions such as:
- the names of coworkers attending the same religious organization;
- details about past military service;
- details about each religious holiday that they celebrate;
- dietary, grooming and dress requirements for their religions;
- date of first attendance at the religious organization and a detailed explanation of religious observance since that date;
- when the religious organization was started;
- the names of each school attended; and,
- the form and type of religious worship.
The contract provides that an employee need only “demonstrate that the belief expressed is, in fact, ‘religious’ and that the belief is sincerely held.”
The employees turned to Freedom Foundation for help. Freedom Foundation attorneys sent a letter to UE counsel, showing that the employees had already met the requirements under the law, and that UE’s questionnaire was burdensome, intrusive and unnecessary.
Despite this, UE counsel denied their accommodation request.
UE prides itself in promoting diversity and equality, and protecting employees from discrimination, but apparently only if it agrees with your beliefs.
Stay tuned for future updates. Freedom Foundation is prepared to stand with these workers as they continue to seek religious accommodation.