Catholic Employee Files Discrimination Charge Against Labor Union over Abortion Rights Stance

Phil Thiltrickett, an opponent of an abortion, holds a rosary as he prays outside a Planned Parenthood Clinic, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, in San Antonio. A federal appeals court judge is considering whether to grant an emergency appeal that would allow the state to enforce a law that could shut …
AP Photo/Eric Gay

A Catholic employee has filed a federal complaint against a major labor union, claiming union officials rejected her requests to end the deduction of her dues because she objects to the union’s pro-abortion rights stance.

With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW), Tennessee resident Dorothy Frame, an employee of J&J Worldwide Services, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge of discrimination against Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) for discriminating against her because of her pro-life religious beliefs.

The charge will now be investigated by the EEOC.

Frame, who works at Fort Campbell — a military installation — objects to having union fees deducted from her paycheck because she opposes the union’s pro-abortion rights stance. She claims LIUNA bosses rejected numerous requests for a religious accommodation to be released from having to pay dues, including one that contained a letter from her parish priest explaining her pro-life beliefs.

“It is outrageous that LIUNA bosses are forcing Ms. Frame to choose between keeping her job and violating her sincere religious beliefs,” said NRTW President Mark Mix. “While such religious discrimination is a blatant violation of federal law, union boss demands in this case serve as a reminder why no worker in America should be forced to subsidize union activities they oppose, whether their opposition is religious-based or for other reasons.”

According to a press release from NRTW:

Although Kentucky and Tennessee both have Right to Work laws which ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary, Fort Campbell’s status as an “exclusive federal enclave” overrides those state laws. The monopoly bargaining contract between J & J Worldwide Service and the LIUNA union requires Frame to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. If she received the religious accommodation federal law requires, the portion of her paycheck that would normally go toward dues would be redirected to a charity that Frame and union officials both find acceptable.

Frame’s requests for a religious accommodation reportedly resulted in an attempt by LIUNA union officials to question her about her faith beliefs.

NRTW states Frame’s charge asserts LIUNA bosses not only rejected her requests for the accommodation but also demanded she “provide a theological defense.”

When Frame’s parish priest sent a letter explaining her faith beliefs, the discrimination charge says, “[T]he Union lawyer rejected this evidence based on his supposedly superior religious views.”

Frame’s charge also claims that, in July 2019, she sent a letter requesting a religious accommodation, stating she believes abortion is “the unjustified destruction of a human life,” a belief that has its foundation in “her understanding of Catholic teaching, scripture, and God’s will.”

According to NRTW, Frame converted to Catholicism in 2017 and realized the conflict between her new faith and the union’s pro-abortion rights position.

When her NRTW attorney wrote to LIUNA as well, Frame states in her charge that union officials did not respond to the letter.

Frame is alleging the union’s rejection of her requests violates her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on religious beliefs.

If the EEOC’s response to her is favorable, Frame could receive a “right to sue” letter, which authorizes her to file a federal lawsuit against LIUNA officials.

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