Assignment: Case Study –
Step #1: Read the case study: Chalmers v. Tulon Company of Richmond, 101 F.3d 1012 (4th Cir. 1996)
This case is found on page(s) 564-568 of the textbook.
Case Study PROMPT:
Issue: Whether it was a reasonable accommodation for an employer to terminate a supervisory employee who, based on her religious beliefs, sent disturbing letters to the homes of other employees.
Facts: A supervisory employee sent to the homes of two employees letters expressing her belief that they “get right with God.” One employee’s wife saw the letter and became distraught thinking her husband had again committed adultery. Another employee received the letter while at home convalescing from an undiagnosed illness after the birth of her baby born out of wedlock. The employer terminated the employee when the letters were discovered, based on her “serious error in judgment” and the fact that she offended them, attacked their personal lives and beliefs, and damaged the working relationship, making it too difficult for the supervisory employee to continue to work there. The employee sued, alleging religious discrimination and that her writing constituted protected religious activity that must be accommodated with a lesser punishment than discharge.
Decision: The court upheld the dismissal, saying that the employer’s reasons for the dismissal were legitimate and non-discriminatory. In addition, in order to accommodate a religious conflict, the employer must know of it, and the court said the employee offered no evidence that she had notified the employer of her religious beliefs manifesting themselves through accusatory letter writing which impose her religious beliefs on others.
Step #2: Respond to the case questions
Is there any way the employer could have avoided this situation? Explain.
If the employee had initially told the employer of her plan to write the letters and the employer had told her not to send them, would the outcome be any different if she had done so anyway?
What would you have done if your employee’s wife called as Mrs. LaMantia did?