Rebel Without a Cause of Action

Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer, Dec. 14

A man who was fired for refusing to stop displaying Confederate flags in his workplace has lost his bid to revive an employment discrimination suit that said he was discriminated against on the basis of his religion and his national origin as a “Confederate Southern-American.”

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In the lower court, U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone of the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissed the suit, finding that “Confederate Southern-American” did not qualify as a national origin under Title VII, and that Storey had not established that his display of a Confederate flag was essential to maintaining a sincerely held religious belief.

Now the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that ruling, but the three-judge panel was split on its reasoning.

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According to court papers, Storey worked for 10 years as a security guard at the Sony plant in Newton Station.

In August 1998, Storey placed a Confederate flag sticker on his lunch box and put two Confederate flag bumper stickers on his pickup truck. One bumper sticker included the slogan, “The South Was Right,” and the other proclaimed, “Heritage not Hate.”

In 2001, supervisors at Burns told Storey that the company was about to implement a “diversified hiring program,” and that Storey would have to remove his Confederate flag stickers. When Storey refused, they explained that Sony and Burns had a “zero tolerance” policy with respect to the display of Confederate symbols, according to court papers.

Top managers tried to persuade Storey to remove or cover his stickers because other employees might be offended by them, but Storey refused, saying that, as a Christian, he was offended by things that occurred at work—such as the use of profanity—but that he accepted it as something he had to deal with, according to court papers.

The next day, Storey was told that the company had concluded that he had voluntarily resigned. When Storey attempted to report for work, a captain of the security guards told him that he had been terminated because of the Confederate stickers.

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