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Tue, Aug 05, 2014

Air Traffic Controller Wins Federal Settlement

Had Filed Suit Against Government Union After Religious Discrimination

With the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, an FAA employee has won a federal settlement from a government union that he says used his religious beliefs to punish him for resigning his union membership.

Last year, Matthew Gray, a Seventh-day Adventist who works at the FAA’s Potomac facility, filed a federal charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority against the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) union.

Gray filed the charge after he was informed by a union official that he was being removed from his detail and transferred to another in which he would have to work on Saturdays. Gray resigned union membership because he believes union membership is contrary to his faith.

A central doctrine of Gray’s church is weekly worship, and not working, on Saturday. Gray’s old position allowed him to avoid any scheduling conflict between his work and religious obligations. By removing him from his old detail, however, NATCA union officials effectively forced Gray to work on Saturday, find a replacement or take leave every week, or lose his job.

Gray told union officials that he only resigned because of his religious beliefs, and that the transfer would cause a scheduling conflict with his religious obligations. NATCA ignored his objections and went through with the transfer request he says at the union bosses’ demand. Instead of standing up to the union, Gray’s manager told him that he was complying with the union’s transfer request because he “no longer represent[s] the best interests of NATCA.”

Gray also filed a charge against the union with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has found cause to believe that the union violated his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. That charge is still pending.

“It’s unconscionable that an independent-minded worker was punished for attempting to exercise his deeply-held religious beliefs,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Workers shouldn’t face retaliation for exercising their right not to join or affiliate with a labor union.”



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