Freedom of religious expression v. protection from discrimination -- trying to quickly find extra cases for judge

rlcyr at rlcyr at
Wed Feb 29 19:29:29 PST 2012

My officemate and I are currently on trial in New York County, NY, on a religious discrimination case under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).  We've researched the issues I'm about to discuss many times over the past few years, but want to reach out and try to make sure there's nothing out there that we're missing.

Our opposing counsel is arguing that the jury should not be instructed on the First Amendment or even generally that our client, the owner (who is also an employee) of the defendant company, has any right whatsoever to express his religious convictions at the restaurant he owned.  We are arguing not only that he has the right to some expression even as the owner, but also that, as an employee drawing a salary, he has certain additional rights.  The fact that this is being litigated under the NYCHRL makes it all the more complicated due to the different standard between local, state and federal law.  We are fairly confident that, on the First Amendment and co-employee issues at least, the judge will be open to considering federal cases and possibly even cases from other jurisdictions.

We're aware of Anderson, Townley, Preferred Mgmt, Tillery, and Millazzo, as well as local cases dealing with the balance between the right to express religious belief vs. the right to be free of harassment.  At this point, we're wondering whether there's anything out there that we're missing, including more local cases that our searches might have missed.  Even though some of the cases we've reviewed mention that tension, none seem to tackle it head-on and state that the balance/line is *here*.

I've been on this list for quite a while and have been reluctant to reach out before, lest anyone think we're just being lazy.  We haven't been, but at this point we want to feel confident that we've exhausted our resources to find every perspective on this issue that we can.

Thanks in advance for any pointers or suggestions!

Renee Cyr


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