Washington State law on religious discrimination includes Washington’s “Law Against Discrimination.” RCW 49.60.180 provides in relevant part that “It is an unfair practice for any employer:”  

 (2) To discharge or bar any person from employment because of age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability.   

 (3) To discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability:  

 (4) To print, or circulate, or cause to be printed or circulated any statement, advertisement, or publication, or to use any form of application for employment, or to make any inquiry in connection with prospective employment, which expresses any limitation, specification, or discrimination as to age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, or any intent to make any such limitation, specification, or discrimination, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification:  

Now, that is the statutory language.  What have the courts said about what a Plaintiff needs to show to keep his case from being dismissed?To show a prima facie case of retaliation under RCW 49.60, an employee must show that: (1) she opposed an activity forbidden by chapter 49.60 RCW; (2)the employer took adverse employment action against her; and (3) retaliation was a substantial factor behind the adverse employment action. See, e.g., Allison v. Housing Authority of City of Seattle, 118 Wn.2d 79, 85, 821 P.2d 34 (1991).  

 If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, but no direct evidence of discrimination exists, the Washington Supreme Court has adopted the so-called McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973).  


The U.S. Supreme Court modified the  burden-shifting protocol in  Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000), and articulated in Hill v. BCTI Income Fund-I, 144 Wn.2d 172, 23 P.3d 440 (2001). Once the prima facie case is
established, a rebuttable presumption of discrimination arises and the defendant must present evidence that the employer took the  challenged employment action  for legitimate reasons. Hill, 144 Wn.2d at 181.  

Where is direct evidence of discrimination, the McDonnell Douglas test does not apply. Even if it did, if the employer  never provided any written warnings of any problems that then became so-called reasons for termination, then the Plaintiff can argue that the employer’s reasons are a mere pretext for unlawful discrimination.  Where discrimination does not target a particular religion, but is against an employee who does not share a particular religious belief, the employee must show:  

(1) the employer subjected the employee to some adverse employment action;  

(2) that, at the time the employment action was taken, the employee’s job performance was satisfactory; and  

(3) some additional evidence to support the inference that the employer took  actions because of a discriminatory motive based upon the employee’s failure to hold or follow his or her employer’s religious beliefs.  

Shapolia v. Los Alamos Nat’l Lab., 992 F.2d 1033, 1038 (10th Cir.1993)]   

The plaintiff is then entitled to the benefit of the McDonnell burden-shifting scheme and its presumptions. The plaintiff need only present a scenario that on its face suggests the defendant more likely than not discriminated. Lawrence v. Mars, Inc., 955 F.2d 902, 905-06 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 823, 113 S.Ct. 76, 121 L.Ed.2d 40] Nielson v. AgriNorthwest 95 Wn. App. 571, 577-578, 977 P.2d 613, 617 ( Div. 3,1999)  
   

Advertisements

One type of wrongful termination case arises when  the employer’s conduct violating a statute that specifically gives the employee the right to sue when for a violation of the law,  such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, where there has been discrimination by sex or race.

But when there is no specific legal violation of a statute that sets forth a remedy for the employee, then under  case law of  the State of  Washington, there may still be a case of wrongful termination based on violation of “public policy.”

Washington courts have generally recognized the public policy exception when an employer terminates an employee as a result of his or her

1) refusal to commit an illegal act,

(2) performance of a public duty or obligation,

(3) exercise of a legal right or privilege, or

(4) in retaliation for reporting employer misconduct.

Danny v. Laidlaw Transit Services, Inc. 165
Wn.2d 200, 207-208, 193 P.3d 128, 131 – 132
(2008).
 
Examples of terminations that violate public policy doctrine are when an armored car driver got out of the vehicle, violating  his employer’s policy, to aid  a crime victim, and was fired. Another example was where an employer fired a woman for missing work due to domestic violence.

Call William Edelblute  Attorney at Law, (509)
928-3711 or bill@edellaw.com to see if your
circumstances could fit under the “public policy”
exception to the “at-will” doctrine.