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Second Circuit Affirms Employer May Fire Employee for Refusing to Attend LGBTQ Training

Raymond Zdunski sued his former employer BOCES after the company fired him for refusing to attend a mandatory workplace LGBTQ training session. Zdunski claims the session conflicted with religious beliefs. He worked for BOCES, a public organization providing educational programs and services to school districts, for seven years. BOCES implemented LGBTQ anti-discrimination training after a transgender employee asked for some accommodation while the employee transitioned. BOCES believed the training would help "maintain an environment free of harassment and discrimination." The anti-LGBTQ training complemented the state-required training for public school affiliates to protect students from "discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying."

After learning about the “LGBTQ Cultural Competency” training, Zdunski told his supervisor that he would not attend because of his “devout Christian” religious beliefs. He “did not want to be forced to listen to indoctrination that is in contradiction to the tenets of his faith.” Instead, Zdunski asked BOCES to offer teachings on greater cultural sensitivity towards persons of faith. On his Facebook page, Zdunski publicly criticized BOCES for the LGBTQ training and said he would not be "forced to condone this lifestyle." When Zdunski and other employees missed this training, BOCES sent a notice regarding a make-up session and noted that failure to attend would result in disciplinary action. When Zdunski failed to take a third opportunity for training, BOCES fired him.

Zdunski filed a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination. He said the LGBTQ training was intended to change his religious beliefs and would have forced him to violate the religious tenets by which he lives his life. The New York district court dismissed his case on summary judgment. Zdunski failed to provide any support that BOCES fired him based on his religious beliefs. He lacked evidence that BOCES treated him differently than other employees who did not attend and that there was discriminatory intent behind BOCES' decision to fire him. Rather, the evidence supported BOCES' position that it fired Zdunski for refusing to attend mandatory training. If the company allowed Zdunski not to attend the training, it may have violated the state law requiring anti-discrimination training.