Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Catholic Relief Services Doesn't Have a Right to Engage in Employment Discrimination

CRS' CEO knew that there was a legal liability for discrimination and she clearly knew the legal difference between a ministerial and non-ministerial employee.
Generic Catholic Church
via NBC4/Washington
A pseudonymous employee of Catholic Relief Services has filed a complaint in United States District Court for the District of Maryland alleging that Catholic Relief Services has engaged in prohibited employment discrimination. The complaint was filed on June 12 which was three days prior to the Supreme Court's ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County.

According to the narrative:

John Doe was recruited and subsequently hired in mid-2016 by Catholic Relief Services for what is apparently a tech support position. Doe's acceptance of CRS' offer was conditioned upon his husband being covered under the group insurance program. A CRS executive said that he would be covered.

Doe was required to relocate to the Baltimore area which he did.

All of Doe's employment reviews were either satisfactory or above satisfactory.

About six months into his employment a CRS executive notified Doe that the insurance coverage was in error. The insurance is provided by Aetna and neither the policy nor the employee benefits manual indicate the exclusion. CRS has recently changed their manual to reflect that they will not provide insurance coverage for same-sex couples.

John Doe had a number of conversations with senior staff over an eight month period of time. He was eventually warned that if he continued to press the issue he would suffer an adverse employment action. He was told that unnamed people wanted him fired.

There are a number of issues at work here, particularly since the Supreme Court's recent ruling. While CRS is under the direct control of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I would argue that Maryland's nondiscrimination laws apply. Doe is a secular employee and would not be subject to the ministerial exception.

Then there is the deliberate breach of contract. It seems that they are trying to coerce Doe into accepting the breach with threats which constitute retaliation which is also prohibited by law.

It would seem that the recent changes to the employee materials constitute impermissible discrimination and amount to a self-serving declaration.

CRS' board of directors is comprised of Catholic Bishops. Every U.S. Catholic bishop is considered to be a member of CRS. Each bishop gets one vote in policy determinations. I do not contest the fact that it is a religious organization.

CRS voluntarily filed a form 990 for the year ended September 30, 2018. More than half its revenues are derived from government grants. In effect, United States taxpayers are subsidizing discrimination.

CRS employs over 1,000 people plus another 300 independent contractors. Chances are pretty good that there are other employees who are gay, married and being discriminated against. It is actually more troublesome than I expected (an EVP of CRS is gay and married — see below).

Of course the geniuses at Lepanto Institute are confused and in a panic. Michael Hichborn has written: Catholic Relief Services Sued by Same-Sex “Married” Employee. This is echoed by the geniuses at LifeSiteNews as: Homosexual sues Catholic Relief Services for ‘spousal’ benefits for male ‘husband.’

According to Hichborn:
In apparent anticipation of the June 15 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States that the 1964 Civil Rights Act extends anti-discrimination protections to homosexuals and transgenders, an anonymous plaintiff going by John Doe (a man in a same-sex “marriage”), filed a lawsuit on Friday, June 12, against Catholic Relief Services for sexual discrimination and “breach of contract, detrimental reliance, and negligent misrepresentation.”
Idiot. The expectation was that the ruling in Bostock would go the other way. The timing is related to the receipt of a “right to sue” determination by the EEOC.

In the rational world, “homosexuals and transgenders” means “gay and transgender people.” Yes, we are persons. Hichborn's language is designed to define us by our sexuality. Zygotes are persons but gay and transgender people are not.

I give Hichborn credit for reasonably describing the complaint. Then he goes off the rails (emphasis added):
Within the 22-page complaint are several factors which immediately call into question the Catholic identity of the organization on the whole.
[…]
… in mid-2016, it should be noted that CRS was on the verge of hiring a man that CRS knew was in a same-sex “marriage.” But in April of 2015, a full year prior to the hiring of John Doe, the Lepanto Institute revealed the fact that CRS had a senior executive vice president who was in a same-sex “marriage.” The following month, the then CEO of CRS, Dr. Carolyn Woo, gave an interview to Aleteia regarding the situation, saying:
“CRS has a senior person who is in a civil gay marriage, and the question is, “Is that a violation of Church teaching?” … there has not been defined a common approach for dealing with employment, particularly when the position is non-ministerial, when the person is not a Catholic, when the agency is not a school. So, we’re in that area when there have been various steps forward, but not a clear path.

Civil marriage is protected by the State of Maryland and 36 other states, as well as DC, so we’re also dealing with a new intersection between in this case state law and Church teaching where the practice is being defined.”
In other words, CRS' CEO knew that there was a legal liability for discrimination and she clearly knew the legal difference between a ministerial and non-ministerial employee.

Apparently Mr. Hichborn doesn't think that a Catholic entity should even hire a person who is gay, let alone in a same-sex marriage:
Exactly one year later, the Lepanto Institute again caught CRS employing a man in an active homosexual relationship. It was right about this time that CRS was actively recruiting Mr. John Doe, who told them before being hired, that he is in a same-sex “marriage,” and for a time, received health insurance coverage for his “spouse.”
Lepanto Institute needs to find a more productive hobby.

The petty smear-quotes are a way for Hichborn to convey his disapproval which is a form of shaming. Shame is the principal lever for obtaining conformity with religious dogma.

While unintentional, what Michael Hichborn has done is to explain precisely why employment nondiscrimination protections are important. People have an absolute right to be judged by their performance. Furthermore, there is the expectation of having a single standard.

CRS probably employs many people who are not Catholic (as Ms. Woo seems to suggest). They are not compliant with Catholic teaching and are treated one way. Gay people who might be Catholic are treated a different way. CRS employs another 6,000 people overseas, most of whom are probably Muslims.

One of the keys to effective management is focus. How does a manager focus on mission-critical objectives when there are all of these extraneous issues having nothing to do with the delivery of goods or services? Now Catholic Relief Services finds itself in a federal lawsuit which is yet another distraction from mission.

Corporate America loathes discrimination, not out of the goodness of hearts, but because they want the largest available pool of talent to recruit from. Catholic Relief Services would do a better job, have better employees and improve its culture by simply not engaging in discrimination.

Hichborn goes off on a tear about how CRS is intrinsically evil because it “promotes” the use of condoms, contrary to Catholic teaching. Common sense dictates that they would do so in Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce the spread of HIV. Some African nations have a prevalence of HIV nearing 30% and that does not include the roughly quarter of infected people who do not know that they are infected.

When religious dogma becomes responsible for killing people, it is time to make some exceptions for the common good. Employment discrimination doesn't kill anyone but it sure creates a great deal of animosity.

I just have to conclude with the “Editor's Note” at the bottom of Hichborn's polemic. It reads:
The fact of the matter is that CRS did this to itself. By indiscriminately hiring active homosexuals and others hostile to Catholic moral teaching, it was only a matter of time before a lawsuit like this would happen. And now, because CRS chose to align itself more with the world than with the Church, the agency is being forced to reap what it has sown. As eloquently stated in the Book of Sirach, ‘Who pities a snake charmer when he is bitten, or anyone who goes near a wild beast? So it is with the companion of the proud, who is involved in their sins.’
It could not possibly be the unrealistic expectations of the real world that creates these problems.

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