Opening Brief for Intervenor-Appellant Demetrius Ford

Details

Author(s):
  • James A. Sonne
  • Zeba A. Huq
Publish Date:
February 28, 2023
Format:
Brief
Citation(s):
  • James A. Sonne & Zeba A. Huq, Opening Brief for Intervenor-Appellant Demetrius Ford, No. 22-2944, 22-2943 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Feb. 28, 2023).
Related Organization(s):

Abstract

This case concerns the untenable choice Appellant Demetrius Ford faced while working as a call-center employee for Appellee Center One: his faith or his livelihood. Specifically, Ford was forced to resign from Center One (or “the Company”) because of its refusal to accommodate his need to observe religious holidays central to his faith as an observant Messianic Jew. And although the district court granted summary judgment to Center One in this lawsuit that the EEOC and Ford thereafter brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it did so only after ignoring a series of material fact disputes concerning Ford’s claim that he was constructively discharged based on an intolerable and inevitable choice to violate his faith or quit. This Court must reverse.

Absent a showing of undue hardship to the employer’s business—an affirmative defense not at issue here—Title VII protects employees from adverse employment actions because of their need for religious accommodation. Notably, adverse action triggering this protection includes constructive discharge; i.e., where the employee has resigned,
but under conditions that effectively make the resignation involuntary and no different from being fired. And according to this Court, a plaintiff can prove constructive discharge by showing that the employer created conditions so intolerable a reasonable employee would feel the need to resign. In support, or alternatively, courts have further observed that
constructive discharge can arise where the employer made clear that termination was inevitable. Either or both of these theories apply here.