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Walmart Firing Of Anti-Gay Employee Justified, Appeals Court Rules

Walmart

First Posted: 04/06/11 05:00 PM ET Updated: 06/06/11 06:12 AM ET

An appellate court has ruled that Walmart did not discriminate against the religious freedoms of an employee by firing the woman for caustic anti-gay remarks directed at a homosexual coworker.

In September of 2005, a lesbian employee of a suburban Chicago Walmart was approached by her colleague, Tanisha Matthews. During a break in the overnight shift, Matthews began shouting at the woman, given only as Amy in court documents.

From the Seventh Circuit Court Ruling:

"Over the next three months, Wal-Mart investigated the incident by interviewing and obtaining statements from employees who were present during the conversation. In her statement, Amy reported that Matthews was ’screaming over her’ that God does not accept gays, they should not ’be on earth,’ and they will ’go to hell’ because they are not ’right in the head.’ Five other employees confirmed that Matthews had said that gays are sinners and are going to hell."

After the investigation, the Joliet, Illinois Walmart dismissed Matthews for violating the chain's non-discrimination policy, writes Edge Chicago, a blog that covers LGBT issues.

Matthews, an Apostolic Christian, responded by filing suit against the company, claiming that her religious beliefs -- which, apparently, include vitriolic hatred for gays -- were violated in her firing, Gay City News reports.

But the Court was unmoved. Walmart “fired [Matthews] because she violated company policy when she harassed a coworker, not because of her beliefs,” the judges wrote, as excerpted in the Chicago Sun-Times. And since her actions were a violation of the company's harassment policy, it was within its rights in dismissing her.

From a legal standpoint, the ruling upholds the courts' trend of allowing employers, and not employees, to set the standard for acceptable speech on the job.

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Filed by Will Guzzardi  |