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Gambling on a Career

 

As you cleaned up your desktop at the end of the day, you paused for reflection about the day’s events.  The day had not started very interestingly, but it had sure picked up!  A state policeman who had been terminated from his job for refusal of a direct work order had come in to see if you would represent him in a wrongful discharge suit against his employer.  After listening to his story, you were left feeling unsure about the case.  He had said that he would go along with whatever you decided – that if you did not think his case had merit, he would not seek counsel elsewhere. Here are the facts as related to you.

 

Last April, Joe Benn, an eight-year veteran of the State Police and a member of the  Baptist faith, was fired for refusing a one-year plain clothes assignment at a casino in the state.  The job entailed monitoring activity at the site.  Benn claims this forces him to choose between his job and his religious convictions.

 

In your office, Benn stated, “I believe that there is no way for me to work at the casino and not be involved with gambling.  You are part of the process.  You’re there to facilitate it, to regulate it and enforce the regulations of it.  And that involves me in the process of it.  This job isn’t about protecting anybody other than the state getting their money from the gambling boats.”

 

He continued, “We are going to answer to the Lord some day for our actions.  I would much rather answer to Him and have Him tell me what I did was right than do what Superintendent Smalley tells me.”

 

I have three small children and my wife stays at home to take care of them.  I am the breadwinner.  The thing at the back of my mind is ‘Don’t lose your job, don’t lose your job, don’t lose your job.’  But I had to stand for what I believe in.”

 

After Benn had left, you called the State Police office and talked with a representative who told you, “This is about him refusing a direct order from the superintendent. The department has the utmost respect for people’s religious beliefs and has worked in the past with individuals to accommodate that.  In fact I can give you examples.  We have changed work schedules to accommodate religious days and also an individual whose religion called for them to wear a certain type of clothing.  But there is a point the department cannot go past, and this is an example of that.”

 

There is a state law that requires a trooper to be aboard the casino boat before gaming can commence.The process for selecting this monitoring position at the casino first consisted of asking for volunteers from the troopers serving in the region the casino was in or the regions touching that region.  If there was not enough volunteers, then all qualified troopers in these regions were placed in a pool and the number necessary were pulled by random drawing. This process was communicated well in advance of the actual selection.  Benn has not discussed not being included in the pool in advance of the selection.  Benn’s name was the first one pulled.

 

The representative also shared that Superintendent Smalley had met personally with Benn to see if a compromise was possible, but Benn flatly refused to discuss anything that involved him being assigned to the casino.  Benn had offered to take any other assignment or to transfer to another district (This was after he knew he had been selected). The representative said, “We have a responsibility to provide protection to the citizens of the state, and having him work somewhere else is not a reasonable accommodation.”

 

You know the law.  You are aware that federal law states that an employer is required  to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of an employee unless doing so would create an undue hardship.

 

Benn had brought with him a few supporting affidavits.  Here are some selected quotes

 

From John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Center, a conservative law center, “They (the state police) have to show that accommodating him will cause an undue hardship.  If they can’t show that, then they will lose as a mater of law.”

 

From Rev Bud Standish, pastor of Benn’s church, “I think it would have been a defeat of his godly testimony in the eyes of many people.  It certainly would have hurt his testimony in my eyes, thus making him a less effective church member and church leader.”

 

What will you tell Mr. Benn to do?  What will you do?

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