Marcus Smith, an IT support specialist in California, has religious objections to union membership and dues payments. Nonetheless, his union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), rejected his request for a religious accommodation.
Unfortunately for Marcus, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME only brought the freedom to opt out of paying union dues to public employees. Because private-sector employees in California lack right-to-work protections, unions can generally require employees to pay dues or fees as a condition of employment, whether they want to or not. However, federal law provides that union-represented employees with a religious objection to union membership can redirect their union dues to a non-religious charity, and that is exactly what Marcus would like to do.
Marcus made clear his sincerely held religious beliefs prevented him from joining the union, and the union was well aware the Freedom Foundation was prepared to assist Marcus in protecting his religious freedom, but the UE still refused Marcus’ request for the accommodation he is entitled to under the law.
Consequently, Freedom Foundation attorneys on Oct. 17 assisted Smith in filing a claim for religious discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The UE union may not think religious rights are worth protecting, but the Freedom Foundation does.