Sandra owns a landscaping company that has over 100 employees. She hired Sam, a Muslim, who told her during the interview process that per his faith, he would need to pause for prayer potentially several times a day depending on the schedule. Sandra, who espoused a policy of diversity, told him it wouldn’t be an issue. After the US Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 573 U.S. 682 (2014), she decided to stop paying for any kind of birth control through the health insurance she offered her employees. She then started thinking about other ways in which religion impacted her business. After talking with her husband, she decided to tell Sam he could no longer pray during the workday, as it probably was disruptive to business and bothered the other employees (although no one had ever mentioned it). She issued Sam a letter informing him that under her religious freedom rights as a business owner, she would not allow Muslim prayer during the workday. The next day she got a certified letter from Sam’s lawyer telling her that she was violating his rights and unless she allowed him to continue to pray, she would be subject to a lawsuit.
If your last name starts with N-Z, you are Sam’s lawyer.
Note that the 1st Amendment protects you from the government, not private individuals. Also, what is the law that gives 1st Amendment rights to corporations? You will want to find that as well (it’s mentioned in the Hobby Lobby case). Here’s something to start your research on the rights of individuals in the workplace.
As the lawyer, tell us what your arguments would be for your client. Once you have done so, you may make your personal commentary on this issue. Here are some things to consider: Do you agree with corporations having 1st Amendment rights? Why or why not? Do you think that corporations should be able to impose the religious beliefs of the owners on the employees and not be subject to restrictions like Title VII? What if Sam was a Scientologist? What if Sam was a member of a religion created by his cousin? How do you know if a religious practice is protected?
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