If you found out that your employee was a child-molester, would you fire them? According to a new Supreme Court ruling, you may not be able to.
Here’s the story: a woman is working for a church, but she develops narcolepsy (she can’t help falling asleep). The church fires her and gets a new employee – but she threatens to sue because she should be protected under the Disabilities Act. But the Supreme Court refused her right to sue, on the basis that it could not interfere with a church’s right to chose its own representatives (freedom of religion, etc.)
The ethics of this conflict are murky: The Western practice of diagnosing everything as a disability means that soon everybody will be protected against firing, and employers can no longer count on hiring able and competent people to work for them. This does not mean I am anti-disability; people with disabilities who are just as capable of doing a good job, should have that opportunity. But having a job should not be a right guaranteed to disabled people – unless perhaps, the government is paying for it. But should the government force a private company to keep an employee who isn’t doing her job?
On the one hand I don’t think that religion should be exempt from law unilaterally – the ruling also means that an employee fired after sexual harassment can’t sue, for example. This is an issue of employee vs. employer rights which should be clarified universally and churches should not be exempt. At the same time, I’m a bit of a shark who feels the best person for a job should get it, rather than the person who needs it the most (ala “Atlas Shrugged”).
However, in a related issue, last week Greece shocked the world (and itself) by reclassifying certain conditions – like Pedophilia and Kleptomania – as disabilities; now able to get higher government compensation than other “lesser” disabilities. While it may seem insane, the trend of diagnosing and classifying these serious personal problems as diseases/disabilities is an international trend.
If you put the Greek law together with the Supreme Court’s new ruling that religious employees of a church cannot sue for employment discrimination, it would mean that the all-too-many cases of pedophilia in the (Catholic) church could not sue after being fired.
In contrast, before, someone who abused children in the church and was then fired may have been able to sue the church for termination! So the change seems like a step in a direction away from crazy. But now, under the new law, if a former employee of the church was terminated because they tried to stop pedophilia, then they couldn’t sue.
What do you think? Should church hiring practices be off limits to the Supreme Court?