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Federal Jury Concludes DEI Course Did Not Conflict with Employee’s Religious Beliefs

Frederick Brennan worked for Deluxe Corp. (“Deluxe”) as a software engineer. Brennan refers to himself as a “born-again Christian” and states he has been devout for over 27 years. Another employee previously sued Deluxe for sex discrimination because of her transgender status. As a part of a Consent Decree entered into with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Deluxe agreed to provide annual training to its employees on what constitutes discriminatory conduct, the company’s policies and procedures, the consequences for engaging in discriminatory conduct, and the company’s non-retaliation policy. Deluxe’s training includes hypotheticals with questions regarding transgender individuals. Employees failing to complete the assigned training could have their annual pay reduced by 1%.

Brennan asserted he could not respond to the questions on the appropriate treatment of transgender individuals because “his religious beliefs prevented [him] from choosing the answers which Deluxe required to complete the test.” When taking the test, employees are required to “try again” if they answer incorrectly. In particular, Brennan had an issue with a question regarding preferred pronoun usage, insisting that only birth gender aligns with his religious beliefs. He believes the questions about gender identity are discriminatory against religion. When Brennan continued to refuse to comply with the directive to complete the course, Deluxe reduced his pay and ultimately terminated his employment.

A federal jury considered Brennan’s case and found for the company. The jury did conclude Brennan had a sincere religious belief that he conveyed to his employer. However, the jury did not find his religious belief conflicted with Deluxe’s requirement that he complete the anti-discrimination course training.