Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Decision Of Biblical Proportions

In Fairchild v. Riva Jewelry Manufacturing Inc., 101169/2006 (June 28, 2007), the New York County Supreme Court held that an individual Defendant was required to respond to interrogatories about his religious beliefs because they formed the basis for the decision to fire the Plaintiff based upon his sexual orientation as a gay man. The Plaintiff, John Fairchild (“Fairchild”) had been an exemplary employee and worked for the Defendant company as a Vice President since 2005. Fairchild alleged that he was fired by Ted Doudak (“Doudak”), the company President, because he was gay. Fairchild further alleged that after he had admitted his sexual orientation to Doudak (on the day prior to his termination), Doudak brought out a Bible and quoted the verses which stated that gays and lesbians were doomed to eternal damnation. Apparently, Fairchild’s employment was terminated without a legitimate business reason and as a direct consequence of Doudak’s learning that he was homosexual.

Fairchild then sued the company and Doudak for violating his rights under New York State and New York City anti-discrimination laws, both of which prohibit discrimination in employment based upon sexual orientation. During discovery, Fairchild served certain interrogatories seeking answers regarding Doudak’s religious beliefs. The interrogatories in issue were: (1) "State whether defendant Doudak believes that 'homosexuality is a sin against God;'" (2) "State whether defendant Doudak believes that 'gays and lesbians are doomed to eternal damnation; '" and (3) "State whether defendant Doudak regards homosexuals as 'repulsive.'" Doudak contested the interrogatories, arguing that they impeded his constitutional rights to privacy and to freely exercise his religion. Fairchild thereafter moved to compel answers and Doudak cross-moved for a protective order.

The Court granted Fairchild's Motion to compel and denied the cross-motion. In requiring Doudak to respond to the interrogatories, the Court stated that not all burdens on religion were unconstitutional when it appeared that the employee’s religion was relied upon to form a basis of discrimination against a person who was a member of a protected class. Here, Fairchild was a member of a protected class under State and municipal law by virtue of his being gay. Doudak was thus unable to hide behind the generally accepted rule of absolute privilege from inquiry into one’s religious beliefs since it was those beliefs which resulted in the adverse employment decision.

I like this one.

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