19. Federal Court Decisions & TRA

Hobbie v Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida – 19.04

Hobbie v Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida
Digest no. 19.04

Cite as: Hobbie v Unemployment Appeals Comm of Florida, 480 US 136 (1987).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Paula Hobbie
Employer: Lawton and Company
Docket no.: S.Ct. No. 85 993
Date of decision: February 25, 1987

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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT HOLDING: When a State denies receipt of a benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and violate his beliefs, that denial must be subjected to strict scrutiny and can be justified only by proof of a compelling state interest. The First Amendment protects the free exercise rights of employees who adopt religious beliefs or convert from one faith to another after being hired.

FACTS: Claimant worked for the employer for 2.5 years before her religious conversion and baptism into the Seventh Day Adventist Church. At that point she informed her supervisor that she could no longer work on her sabbath – sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Although her supervisor agreed to substitute for her whenever she was scheduled on her sabbath, the supervisors’ supervisor would not agree to that arrangement and instructed claimant to work as scheduled or resign. When claimant refused to do either she was discharged.

DECISION: Florida’s refusal to award unemployment compensation benefits to claimant violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

RATIONALE: The timing of claimant’s conversion in immaterial to the question of whether her free exercise rights have been burdened. Claimant was forced to choose between fidelity to her religious belief and continued employment. The forfeiture of unemployment benefits for choosing the former over the latter brings unlawful coercion to bear on the employee’s choice.

Digest Author:  Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 12/91

12. Misconduct

Key State Bank v Adams – 12.09

Key State Bank v Adams
Digest no. 12.09

Section 29(1)(b)

Cite as: Key State Bank v Adams, 138 Mich App 607 (1984); lv den 422 Mich 871 (1985).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Georganne Adams
Employer: Key State Bank
Docket No: B82 08965 RO1 85084W
Date of decision: November 5, 1984

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: ” … the Free Exercise Clause of the

First Amendment, US Const, Am I, prevents the state from withholding benefits when the reason for termination of employment is based upon conversion to a religious faith.”

FACTS: The claimant was employed in a position requiring Saturday work. “Subsequent to commencing her employment, and, after working on Saturdays for a period of several months, [claimant] underwent conversion to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and refused to work on Saturdays any longer.” The employer discharged claimant after attempting in good faith, but without success, to accommodate her religious beliefs.

DECISION: The claimant is not disqualified for misconduct discharge.

RATIONALE: The Court cited Sherbert v Vernier, 374 US 398 (1963) and Thomas v Review Board of the Indiana Employment Security Div, et al, 450 US 707 (1981) as controlling precedents on the issue herein.

In both Sherbert and Thomas “the termination flowed from the fact that the employment once acceptable, became religiously objectionable because of changed conditions … the focus of the Court in Thomas, supra, and Sherbert was not on the conduct of the employers, but on the State’s conditioning receipt of an important benefit upon conduct prescribed by a religious faith or [denial of] such benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief.”

“The only factual difference between this case and the Supreme Court precedents is that the claimant herein adopted her religious beliefs after gaining employment. We do not accept the view that the First Amendment protects the right to adhere to religious beliefs, but not the right to adopt such beliefs in the first instance or convert from one faith to another.”

“The State may not constitutionally apply the eligibility provision to deny” claimant benefits.

Digest Author:  Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 11/90