12.15.2009

Law Professor and Students Petition the U.S. Supreme Court

Students in Prof. Bruce Cameron’s classes have the opportunity to contribute to litigation changing the face of employment and labor law.

As part of Regent’s National Right to Work Practicum, students Amber Morris (3L), Ernie Walton (2L) and Chuck Slemp (3L) helped research and write a petition for certiorari filed with the United States Supreme Court.

The case in question, Reed v. United Auto Workers, involves a worker in a unionized auto plant who has sincere religious objections to joining or financially supporting a labor union. Because of his religious beliefs, Reed is being charged more in compulsory union fees than any other employee, including those whose objections to supporting the union are secular.

Professor Cameron argues that under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, employees have both the right to be free of religious discrimination and the right to a reasonable accommodation of their religious belief. The majority of the judges on the lower courts determined that anyone who claims accommodation rights on the grounds of religious belief can be charged more in compulsory fees than other employees. Thus, the case offers an opportunity to put objections requiring religious accommodation on the same footing as secular objections to funding union political activity.

The case also presents the issue of what must be proven by a religious objector in a religious accommodation case. The U.S. Supreme Court has never decided that issue, and the lower federal courts of appeal are evenly split. About half of the federal courts of appeal have ruled that an employee seeking religious accommodation must first be discharged or disciplined before bringing a federal court suit. Professor Cameron believes that no employee should have to choose between his job and obedience to God.

Cameron filed the petition on December 15, 2009, and he and his students will eagerly await the Court’s decision.

Learn more about Bruce N. Cameron, Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law, here.