Former Blanchfield Army Community Hospital employee Dorothy Frame has won a settlement against Laborers International Union (LIUNA) officials in a federal lawsuit charging them with illegal religious discrimination. Frame filed her case with free assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Frame’s November 2021 complaint said LIUNA officials illegally discriminated against her by forcing her, in violation of her Catholic beliefs, to fund the union’s activities through mandatory union dues payments. Frame voiced her religious objections to the union’s stances, but union officials repeatedly rejected and ridiculed her requests for a religious accommodation, according to her lawsuit.
Under the settlement, as a condition of dismissing the lawsuit against LIUNA, union officials must pay Frame $10,000 in damages. The settlement also requires LIUNA officials’ attorney to send an apology letter to Frame for the union’s inappropriate conduct.
“I knew in my heart and in my soul that I was right,” Frame said about the successful conclusion of her case. “This is one of the greatest things that I’ve ever done in my life. It was hard; it was so hard.”
LIUNA Officials Illegally Snubbed Worker’s Religious Accommodation Request
Frame first requested a religious accommodation in 2019, when she sent a letter informing LIUNA officials of the conflict between her religious beliefs and the requirement that she join or pay the union.
Tennessee has a Right to Work law ensuring that private sector workers in the state cannot be compelled to pay dues as a condition of employment. But Fort Campbell, the location of Blanchfield hospital where Frame worked, is a “federal enclave” not subject to state law. Frame’s former employer, J & J Worldwide Service, maintains a union monopoly contract with LIUNA union bosses that forces employees to pay union dues or fees to keep their jobs.
Frame’s July 2019 letter also included a message from her parish priest supporting her request for a religious accommodation. Federal law prohibits unions from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion, and requires unions to provide accommodations to workers who oppose dues payment on religious grounds.
Rather than fulfill their obligation under federal law to provide her such an accommodation, Frame’s complaint reported, LIUNA officials denigrated her beliefs.
Frame’s complaint recounted that union lawyers demanded she provide a “legitimate justification” for why her conflict with the union’s activity warranted a religious accommodation. A union lawyer also claimed in a letter, according to Frame’s complaint, that “Ms. Frame’s understanding of her faith was inferior to his own understanding of her faith.” He even closed the letter by “sending Ms. Frame – and her priest – remedial church readings.”
“It crushed me, it hurt me so deeply. Not just for them to say that to me, but to tell my priest that,” Frame said of the experience. “It crushed me, and it actually made me more determined.”
Frame subsequently filed a discrimination charge against LIUNA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in December 2019. Even after EEOC proceedings and additional letters from Frame’s attorney demonstrating the conflict between the union’s activity and her faith, Frame’s complaint explains, union officials still refused to accommodate her beliefs and refused to return money they took from her paycheck after she requested an accommodation.
Ultimately the EEOC issued Frame a “right to sue” letter leading to her federal anti-discrimination lawsuit, filed by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
“Ms. Frame believes that abortion is a grave sin,” her lawsuit detailed. “She believes joining or financially supporting the Unions would make her complicit in that sin because she believes that the Unions support and promote abortion. Thus, she believes that any money the Unions collect from her makes her complicit in sin and violates her religious beliefs.”
Foundation President: Forced Dues Privileges Create ‘Breeding Ground’ For Discrimination
“Despite being targeted with years of bullying and discrimination by LIUNA officials, Ms. Frame refused to forsake her religious beliefs and stood firm for her rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “She has now prevailed decisively against LIUNA’s illegal attempt to force her to choose between remaining true to her beliefs and staying employed.”
“While the National Right to Work Foundation is proud to stand with principled workers like Ms. Frame, Big Labor’s government-granted privilege to force rank-and-file workers to support their activities creates a breeding ground for such malfeasance and anti-worker abuse,” Mix continued. “No American worker should have to pay tribute to a union they oppose just to keep their job, whether their objections are religious or otherwise.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide