An Iowa state employee who sued his former employer after being fired for signing his emails “In Christ” lost his court battle Wednesday.
According to the Sioux City Journal, a federal jury found Wednesday that Michael Mial, a former employee of the Cherokee Mental Health Institute’s Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders, failed to demonstrate that his employer didn’t accommodate his religious practices.
The ruling puts an end to Mial’s two-year court battle, which started in January 2017 when he filed a religious discrimination suit against his former supervisors. Mial claims that he was told his “deeply held religious beliefs are great for helping” patients, but was then asked to keep his beliefs out of his work, and was later fired.
The lawsuit argued that his use of “In Christ” in the signature line of his emails was protected by the First Amendment, and did not violate a state endorsement of religion, but was rather a “minuscule accommodation on behalf of the Plaintiff and his protected beliefs.”
“By firing Mial and by limiting their employment to persons whom agree with the organization’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, and the stifling of the expression of religious viewpoints, Defendants have violated and will continue to violate the right to freedom of expressive association guaranteed to Mial by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims that Mial’s supervisors “attempted to persuade [him] from his religious beliefs,” and “on numerous occasions, they even stated that he should separate his beliefs from work or just separate his personal and professional lives.”
Mial’s attorneys also argued that his termination violated his due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
“No one ever complained about it to supervisors and no one complained about it to his face,” civil rights attorney Jeffrey Jansen told the Sioux City Journal after filing the lawsuit. Jansen also noted that Mial’s former colleagues were not disciplined for signing emails with slogans such as “Go Hawkeyes” or “Semper-Fi.”
“If these people are doing it, why can’t I?” Mial asked, but the jury wasn’t buying it, and ruled against him at the end of a three-day trial. Mial was seeking compensation for his lost wages as well as damages for the humiliation and emotional pain caused by his firing.
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