Court Rules Against BOCES Employee Who Refused LGBTQ Training
A Federal Appeals Court in New York City upheld a lower court's decision that an Upstate NY BOCES had the right to fire an employee who refused to attend LGBTQ competency training.
The former clerk at the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES in Western New York, Raymond Zdunski, sued for what he claimed was "unlawful religious discrimination," by the BOCES he had worked at for seven years. Zdunski was seeking reinstatement, back pay, and $10 million in damages.
BOCES argued that the LGBTQ training was a requirement for all employees as a means to prevent any discrimination in the workplace. Zdunski refused to attend the training on more than one occasion, because he said he would never discriminate against anyone, even though the things that were being taught in the course were in contrast to his Christian values, according to the Buffalo News. The training was initiated in 2018 after a transgender employee requested accommodations to facilitate their gender transition.
"It just seems like the country is against the Christian way of life, and it's for everything else," Zdunski told the Buffalo News. "We're not allowed to practice our way of life but anyone else can, it seems."
New York's Federal Appeals Court disagreed.
"Plaintiff's unsupported assumption that Defendants believe him to be ‘bigoted’ due to his religious beliefs is insufficient to support an inference of discrimination," U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford of the Northern District wrote in his ruling last year. "In sum, no facts in the record support a finding that Mr. Zdunski was terminated because of his religion; rather, the evidence in the record supports Defendants' position that his termination was due to repeatedly refusing to attend a mandatory employee training."
BOCES claimed Zdunski was given more than one opportunity to attend the classes and was warned that if he refused, he would face disciplinary action.
Kristina S. Heuser, the lawyer who represented Zdunski, told Buffalo News his rights were violated "for no other reason than his refusal to be indoctrinated with anti-biblical teaching."
Heuser told the Buffalo News that they now have no other choice but to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.