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'Years of Bullying and Discrimination': Former KY Hospital Worker Claims Victory in Religious Rights Case


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A former hospital employee in Fort Campbell, Kentucky will receive $10,000 and an apology letter from the union in a legal settlement over her religious discrimination case. 

Dorothy Frame says her union's stance on abortion was contrary to her Catholic faith, so she didn't want to pay dues to support the practice. 

The Clarksville Leaf Chronicle reports Frame, a former environmental service worker at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, settled her federal lawsuit against the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) in which she alleged she faced discrimination for her religious beliefs. 

In 2019, Frame sent a letter informing LIUNA officials of the conflict between her religious beliefs and the requirement that she join or pay the union. She asked for religious accommodations that would exempt her from paying union dues, but union officials repeatedly rejected and ridiculed her requests for a religious accommodation, according to her lawsuit.

Frame's letter also included a message from her parish priest supporting her request for a religious accommodation. Federal law prohibits unions from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion and requires unions to provide accommodations to workers who oppose dues payment on religious grounds.

Rather than fulfill their obligation under federal law to provide her with such an accommodation, Frame's lawsuit stated, LIUNA officials denigrated her beliefs.

Frame's complaint recounted that union lawyers demanded she provide a "legitimate justification" for why her conflict with the union's activity warranted a religious accommodation. One union lawyer also claimed in a letter, according to Frame's lawsuit, that "Ms. Frame's understanding of her faith was inferior to his own understanding of her faith." He even closed the letter by "sending Ms. Frame – and her priest – remedial church readings."

According to the National Right to Work Foundation, Tennessee has a Right to Work law ensuring that private-sector workers inside the state's borders cannot be compelled to pay dues as a condition of employment. However, Fort Campbell is a "federal enclave" not subject to state law. 

Frame then filed a discrimination charge against LIUNA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in December 2019. Ultimately the EEOC issued Frame a "right to sue" letter leading to her federal anti-discrimination lawsuit, filed pro bono by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys.

Frame's November 2021 complaint said, "Ms. Frame believes that abortion is a grave sin. She believes joining or financially supporting the Unions would make her complicit in that sin because she believes that the Unions support and promote abortion. Thus, she believes that any money the Unions collect from her makes her complicit in sin and violates her religious beliefs."

Under the settlement, as a condition of dismissing the lawsuit against LIUNA, union officials must pay Frame $10,000 in damages. The settlement also requires LIUNA officials' attorney to send an apology letter to Frame for the union's inappropriate conduct.

"I knew in my heart and in my soul that I was right," Frame said in a press release. "This is one of the greatest things that I've ever done in my life. It was hard; it was so hard."

"Despite being targeted with years of bullying and discrimination by LIUNA officials, Ms. Frame refused to forsake her religious beliefs and stood firm for her rights," National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. "She has now prevailed decisively against LIUNA's illegal attempt to force her to choose between remaining true to her beliefs and staying employed."

"Big Labor's government-granted privilege to force rank-and-file workers to support their activities creates a breeding ground for such malfeasance and anti-worker abuse," Mix continued. "No American worker should have to pay tribute to a union they oppose just to keep their job, whether their objections are religious or otherwise."

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