Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Remember What Your Parents Told You: Avoid Discussing Religion and Politics

When you were young, your parents may have told you to avoid discussing religion and politics with people you don’t know. Apparently officials in Williamson County, Texas forgot this sound advice. As a result, they are facing a lawsuit

The problems for the county officials started during a job interview for a county constable position. During the interview, the officials asked the applicant about his views on abortion. He replied by stating that based on his Catholic faith, he was pro-life. He claimed that in response to this answer, the county officials “frowned and exchanged disapproving glances.” 

The officials also asked him about his views on same-sex marriage, to which he replied that marriage should be between one man and one woman. He claimed that a county official responded by stating that “if he was appointed to the position, he would need to come up with a better answer.” 

The officials then asked him what church he attended, whether he was a Republican or Democrat, and whether he was liberal or conservative. The officials then allegedly pulled up his voting record and announced that he had voted Republican. 

The job applicant sued the county officials, along with the county, alleging that they had discriminated against him based on his religious views. The judge has allowed the case to proceed to trial, ruling that the allegations made by the job applicant, if true, could be violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Texas Human Rights Act. 

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that questions about a job applicant’s religious beliefs should not be asked during a job interview. Also, public employees should not ask questions about an individual’s political beliefs during a job interview, as doing so may violate that job applicant’s First Amendment rights to freedom of association. 

Ultimately, employers should remember the advice they learned growing up about not discussing political or religious issues with people they do not know. Doing so may expose them to allegations that they discriminated against an employee or job applicant because of that person’s religion, cultural identity, etc. 

Employers should be careful about the questions they ask during a job interview. Asking the wrong question could leave them facing a lawsuit. We suggest that employers contact an experienced attorney to review the questions they plan to ask during job interviews.