Employment Division, Oregon Department of Human Resources v Smith – 19.06

Employment Division, Oregon Department of Human Resources v Smith
Digest no. 19.06

Cite as: Employment Div, Oregon Dep’t of Human Resources v Smith, 110 S Ct 1595 (1990).

Appeal pending:
No
Claimant: Alfred Smith and Galen Black
Employer: N/A
Docket no.: S.Ct. 88-1213
Date of decision: April 17, 1990

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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT HOLDING: Claimants discharged for using illegal drugs as part of a religious sacrament may be disqualified from receipt of unemployment compensation benefits without violation of First Amendment protections of the free exercise of religion.

FACTS: Claimant’s were discharged from their jobs at a private drug rehabilitation organization because they ingested peyote for sacramental purposes at a ceremony of the Native American Church of which both are members. They were determined to be disqualified for benefits because their discharge was for work related misconduct.

DECISION: Claimants are disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits when their discharge results from the use of illegal drugs even though the drug is part of a religious sacrament.

RATIONALE: If a State has prohibited through its criminal laws certain kinds of religiously motivated conduct without violating the First Amendment it follows that the State may impose the lesser burden of denying unemployment compensation benefits to persons who engage in that conduct. The right of free exercise of religion does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability.

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 12/91

Frazee v Illinois Dep’t of Employment Security – 19.03

Frazee v Illinois Department of Employment Security
Digest no. 19.03

Cite as: Frazee v Ill Dep’t of Employment Security, 450 US 707 (1989).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: William A. Frazee
Employer: Kelly Services
Docket no.: U.S. Supreme Court No. 87-1945
Date of decision: March 29, 1989

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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT HOLDING: Where a claimant has a sincere belief that religion required him or her to refrain from the work in question they may invoke the protections of the First Amendment. It is not required that the claimant belong to an established religious sect for the claimant’s religious beliefs to be protected.

FACTS: Claimant refused a temporary position offered him by Kelly Services because the job required Sunday work. Claimant told Kelly that, as a Christian, he could not work on “the Lord’s day.” Claimant applied for unemployment benefits and was denied for his refusal to accept work on Sunday. Claimant was denied at every stage of the appeal process until the U.S. Supreme Court. The lower courts recognized the sincerity of his professed religious belief but found it was not entitled to First Amendment protection as he was not a member of an established sect or church and did not claim his refusal of work was based on a tenet of an established religious sect.

DECISION: Claimant’s refusal to work was based on a sincerely held religious belief. As such he was entitled to invoke the First Amendment protection and should not be denied benefits.

RATIONALE: In earlier cases the Court held where a claimant was forced to choose between fidelity to religious belief and employment, the forfeiture of unemployment benefits for choosing the former over the latter brings unlawful coercion to bear on the employee’s choice. In each case the Court concluded the denial of unemployment benefits violated the 1st and 14th Amendments. Though those claimants were members of a particular religious sect, none of those decisions turned on that fact, or on any tenet that forbade the work the claimants refused. The claimants’ judgments in those cases rested on the fact each had a sincere belief religion required him or her to refrain from the work he or she refused to perform.

Digest Author:  Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 12/91

UAW v Brock – 19.01

UAW v Brock
Digest no. 19.01

Section 231(2) of the Trade Act of 1974

Cite as: UAW v Brock, 816 F2d 761 (DC Cir 1987).

Appeal pending: No
Plaintiff: International Union U.A.W., et al.
Defendant: William Brock, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor
Docket no.: N/A
Date of decision: April 24, 1987

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U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT HOLDING: For purposes of the TRA program, the term “employment” ordinarily includes weeks of paid vacation and sick leave.

FACTS: To qualify for TRA benefits a worker has to have “at least 26 weeks of employment at wages of $30 or more a week in adversely affected employment”. The Department of Labor interpreted qualifying employment as weeks of actual physical labor, not including weeks when the worker received sick pay, workers compensation, holiday pay, back pay, etc.

DECISION: TRA claimants who were denied benefits because they were not credited for weeks prior to October, 1981 in which they received vacation pay, holiday pay, sick leave, workers compensation or other enumerated types of compensation during the 52 week period preceding their separation from adversely affected employment, may request reopening of their TRA claims. On November 17, 1987 the U.S.D.O.L. issued revised definitions for the terms “employment” and “wages” as used in Section 231(2) of the Trade Act of 1974, in conformity with the court order.

RATIONALE: “The actual language of the statute, the clear remedial purpose of the 1974 Congress, and the demonstrably unreasonable results that flow from the Secretary’s definition of ’employment’ make clear that his interpretation of Section 231 of the Trade Act conflicts with congressional intent. Because the Secretary’s interpretation can find no support in the statute or its legislative history, and because it is so thinly justified as to be unreasonable, we reject it as an invalid construction of the Trade Act.”

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 12/91

Hobbie v Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida – 19.04

Hobbie v Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida
Digest no. 19.04

Cite as: Hobbie v Unemployment Appeals Comm of Florida, 480 US 136 (1987).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Paula Hobbie
Employer: Lawton and Company
Docket no.: S.Ct. No. 85 993
Date of decision: February 25, 1987

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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT HOLDING: When a State denies receipt of a benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and violate his beliefs, that denial must be subjected to strict scrutiny and can be justified only by proof of a compelling state interest. The First Amendment protects the free exercise rights of employees who adopt religious beliefs or convert from one faith to another after being hired.

FACTS: Claimant worked for the employer for 2.5 years before her religious conversion and baptism into the Seventh Day Adventist Church. At that point she informed her supervisor that she could no longer work on her sabbath – sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Although her supervisor agreed to substitute for her whenever she was scheduled on her sabbath, the supervisors’ supervisor would not agree to that arrangement and instructed claimant to work as scheduled or resign. When claimant refused to do either she was discharged.

DECISION: Florida’s refusal to award unemployment compensation benefits to claimant violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

RATIONALE: The timing of claimant’s conversion in immaterial to the question of whether her free exercise rights have been burdened. Claimant was forced to choose between fidelity to her religious belief and continued employment. The forfeiture of unemployment benefits for choosing the former over the latter brings unlawful coercion to bear on the employee’s choice.

Digest Author:  Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 12/91

California Human Resources Department v Java – 19.05

California Human Resources Department v Java
Digest no. 19.05

Cite as: Cal Human Resources Dep’t v Java, 402 US 121 (1971).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Judith Java
Employer: N/A
Docket no.: U.S. S.Ct. 507 (1970)
Date of decision: April 26, 1971

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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT HOLDING: Benefits due a claimant after an initial finding of eligibility may not be held in abeyance pending the employer’s appeal.

FACTS: Claimants were discharged from employment. They applied for benefits. They were given an eligibility interview which the employer could have, but did not, attend. As a result of the interview both claimants were found eligible for benefits and received benefits. The employer then appealed. At that point payments automatically stopped in accordance with California law and practice. At the Referee level, Hudson was ruled eligible but Java was found to be ineligible.

The procedure used by California in stopping payment of benefits upon employer protest resulted in a median 7 week delay in payments to eligible claimants. Employers were successful in less than 50% of appeals.

DECISION: Procedure used by California was not in compliance with the Social Security Acts’ directive to pay unemployment compensation “when due”.

RATIONALE: The Social Security Act requires administration of the Unemployment Compensation Fund in a manner reasonably calculated to insure full payment of benefits when due. The objective of Congress was to provide for benefit payments on the nearest pay day following the termination of employment to the extent administratively possible in order to provide the unemployed worker with cash at a time when he/she would otherwise have nothing to spend. “When due” as contained in Section 303(a)(1) of the Social Security Act is construed to mean when benefits are allowed after a hearing of which both parties have notice and have an opportunity to present their respective positions.

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 12/91