Truck driver Vasant Reddy is not living the high life. Reddy, a Muslim, refused to transport a shipment of Miller Lite as part of his duties. He claims he was forced to resign because of adherence to his religious beliefs.
Normally refusing to deliver something would seem to be a pretty big problem if your job is to deliver things. But that’s why we have Title VII. As a religious objector, Reddy should still be able to work at his job, provided that he sincerely holds this religious objection and that making an exception doesn’t impose an undue hardship on Reddy’s employers.
Is delivering beer an essential function of being a truck driver? Let’s get into it (dear Muslim friends, you’ll probably want to skip the comments on this post)…
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Eugene Volokh argues that making an exception for Reddy wouldn’t be that different from other kinds of religious dispensations courts have upheld or enforced in the past:
Even a modest cost might be seen as an “undue hardship” on the employer, but if the cost is very slight — perhaps because indeed there are very few loads that contain alcohol or tobacco, and those loads could easily be parceled out to others without substantial expense or substantial unfairness to Reddy’s coworkers — then the employer could be liable for failing to accommodate Reddy…
Maybe it’s bad for federal law to impose such an obligation on employers, whether because the law is too vague, imposes unduly on private employers, imposes unduly on coworkers, gives an undue preference to conscientious objectors (it has been interpreted to apply to nonreligious conscientious objectors as well as religious ones), or something else. But it does impose such an obligation, and provides a valuable benefit to religious objectors. Muslims are no more and no less entitled to this benefit than are Christians, Jews, or others.
Legal Blog Watch reports that Reddy’s complaint alleges that very few of his employer’s loads contain products that he would have an objection to:
Reddy’s complaint alleges that less than 5 percent of his employer’s loads contain alcohol or tobacco, so it should be no big whoop to assign those loads to other drivers. In fact, that’s what he alleges happened when first refused to move the beer. It was only after the load had been transported “without incident” that he was given the choice: resign or be fired.
Before people go off on how it’s possible for Muslims to get around the alcohol and tobacco restrictions, Volokh points out a key issue:
A claimant who is demanding a religious exemption may prevail even if his view is not shared by most coreligionists. Small sects, and even idiosyncratic religious believers, are as protected as large sects: This flows in part from the multiplicity of American Christian denominations; from the sense that discrimination among denominations is wrong; from the reality of religious disagreement even within denominations (something majority-Protestant nations have long been familiar with); and from the courts’ sensible conclusion that secular courts can’t judge which group within one denomination has the better view of the denomination’s “true beliefs.”
If this guy sincerely believes that transporting alcohol and tobacco is wrong, then it really doesn’t matter how other followers of Islam interpret the restriction.
Should these beliefs be protected, or does a trucking company need to have trucker who will transport anything?
I don’t know — it seems to me that the world would be a better place if there was less Miller Lite flowing around.
Does Trucking Company Have a Legal Duty to Accommodate Muslim Employee’s Religious Objections to Transporting Alcohol or Tobacco? [Volokh Conspiracy]
Muslim Truck Driver Sues After Being Fired for Refusing to Transport Alcohol [Legal Blog Watch]