Wal-Mart Harassment Policy upheld in case of gay harassment

Tue. April 5, 2011 5:41 AM by GoPride.com News Staff

Chicago, IL - A federal appeals court in Illinois ruled that Wal-Mart Stores did not violate the civil rights of an employee when the company fired her for religious-inspired anti-gay harassment at its store in Joliet, Illinois.

Tanisha Matthews, who describes herself as an Apostolic Christian, sued her former employer for race and religious discrimination under provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

According to legal filings, Matthews worked as an overnight stocker at Wal-Mart in Joliet, Illinois since 1996.

In September 2005, during a break Matthews took part in a religious conversation about homosexuality. She allegedly screamed over Amy, an out lesbian, that God does not accept gays, they should not "be on earth," and they will "go to hell" because they are not "right in the head." Five other employees confirmed Matthews had made the statements.

Wal-Mart fired Matthews after the big-box retailer concluded that she had engaged in serious harassment in violation of the company's Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy.

Matthews sued claiming she was fired for expressing her religious beliefs.

The district court ruled there was no direct evidence of discrimination. Matthews appealed and argued Wal-Mart must permit her to admonish gays at work to accommodate her religion.

On March 31, The US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago agreed with the lower court stating, "If Matthews is arguing that Wal-Mart must permit her to admonish gays at work to accommodate her religion, the claim fails."

"Moreover, Wal-Mart fired her because she violated company policy when she harassed a coworker, not because of her beliefs, and employers need not relieve workers from complying with neutral workplace rules as a religious accommodation if it would create an undue hardship."

Matthews continues to receive unemployment.