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Friday, December 30, 2005

Ind. Decisions - Court upholds GM program accused of religious bias

Charles Wilson of the AP has a story this morning, headlined "Court upholds GM program accused of religious bias," on the 7th Circuit's decision yesterday in Moranski v. General Motors, affirming a ruling by District Judge David Hamilton. (See yesterday's ILB entry on the ruling here.)

The AP story notes that:

According to GM's Web site, the company recognizes nine Affinity Groups including ones for people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, women, Hispanics, veterans, and four groups for people of African or Asian ancestry.
From earlier in the story:
Moranski applied in December 2002 to start an interdenominational Christian employees group as part of the diversity program, according to court documents.

GM rejected the application because program guidelines do not allow Affinity Groups to promote religious positions, the documents state. Moranski filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the denial constituted illegal religious discrimination.

Judge David Hamilton dismissed the suit, holding that Moranski had failed to state a claim for the court to consider.

The appeals court agreed. "The allegations in Moranski's complaint make clear that General Motors would have taken the same action had he possessed a different religious position," Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote in opinion. * * *

The guidelines, the court said, prohibit the forming of Affinity Groups based on any religious position, including atheism.

"Simply stated, General Motors's Affinity Group policy treats all religious alike - it excludes them all from serving as the basis of a company-recognized Affinity Group," Williams wrote.

The Chicago Tribune also has a story today. Some quotes:
The act, which requires equal treatment within categories, cannot be stretched to require "cross-categorical comparisons when evaluating Title VII claims," the ruling stated.

"[Moranski's] logic would mean that a company would violate Title VII if it recognized an affinity group on the basis of religion but not sex, or granted status to a group on the basis of sex but not to one based on ethnicity," the ruling said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Equal Employment Advisory Council, a group representing 325 major corporations, joined in supporting GM. Their brief argued that requiring companies to permit religious groups would have a chilling effect on affinity groups because some employers would discontinue them altogether.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 30, 2005 11:25 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions