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VAN KOTEN v. FAMILY HEALTH MGMT.

January 10, 1997

ROBERT J. VAN KOTEN, Plaintiff,
v.
FAMILY HEALTH MANAGEMENT, INC. and CHIROMED PHYSICIANS, P.C., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAHONEY

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff claims to adhere to a religion known as "Wicca." Wicca is also known as "The Craft" and as "The Old Religion." According to Plaintiff, Wicca is "a monistic and pantheistic, positive, shamanistic, nature based religion that is predicated on a simple set of ethics and morality which promulgates avoidance of harm to other people, promoting brotherly love and harmony with and respect for all life forms." (Plaintiff's complaint, P 2).

 FHM is an entity engaged in a business which affects commerce and employs in excess of 20 employees on a full time basis for 52 weeks per year. Therefore, FHM is a qualified employer within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. Chiromed is an entity engaged in a business which affects commerce and employs in excess of 20 employees on a full time basis for 52 weeks per year. Therefore, Chiromed is a qualified employer within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq.

 On February 23, 1995, Plaintiff filed an unverified complaint for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., claiming that FHM and Chiromed (collectively, the "Defendants"), "wilfully and intentionally discriminated" against Plaintiff because of his religious beliefs.

 On April 17, 1996, Plaintiff and Defendants consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney. On August 23, 1996, this case, including Defendants' motion for summary judgment, was transferred to Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney.

 On July 29, 1996, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons articulated below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

 II. THE SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

 Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2509-2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden to identify "those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). See also Northern District of Illinois, Local General Rule 12M. If the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party has the burden to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue [of material fact] for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1355-56, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986); Anderson, 477 U.S. 242, 248-249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). To sustain its burden, the non-moving party cannot rest on the mere allegations in the pleadings. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Rather, the non-moving party (who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue) must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial. Williams v. Williams Electronics, Inc., 856 F.2d 920, 922 (7th Cir. 1988) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986); Anderson, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986)). The non-moving party "must do more than simply 'show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" Williams, 856 F.2d 920, 922 (7th Cir. 1988) (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986)). Moreover, under Northern District of Illinois Local General Rule 12N, the non-moving party must submit "a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's [12M] statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." See Northern District of Illinois, Local General Rule 12N(3). If no genuine issue of material fact exists, the sole question is whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Miranda v. Wisconsin Power & Light Co., 91 F.3d 1011, 1014 (7th Cir. 1996). Further, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986).

 III. RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION UNDER TITLE VII

 A. Introduction

 Title VII provides that "it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual, or his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's . . . religion." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Religion includes "all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). Title VII has been interpreted to protect against requirements of religious conformity and as such protects those who refuse to hold, as well as those who hold, specific religious beliefs. Shapolia v. Los Alamos National Laboratory, 992 F.2d 1033, 1036 (10th Cir. 1993) (citing International Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Boeing Co., 833 F.2d 165, 169 (9th Cir. 1987)).

 Based on its reading of the available cases, the Magistrate sees two types of religious discrimination cases under Title VII: (1) Accommodation cases, and (2) Discharge cases.

 B. Accommodation Cases

 The accommodation cases encompass fact patterns in which the defendant refused to accommodate a religious practice of the plaintiff. See, e.g., Moore v. A. E. Staley Manufacturing Company, 727 F. Supp. 1156 (N.D. Ill. 1989); Johnson v. Angelica Uniform Group, Inc., 762 F.2d 671 (8th Cir. 1985). The accommodation cases use a three step framework for evaluating Title VII discrimination claims, as set forth in Moore and Johnson. Under the accommodation framework, the plaintiff must show the following three elements to establish a prima facie case: "First, the plaintiff must show that he or she holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement. Second, the plaintiff must have informed the employer of this conflict. Finally, the employer must have discharged, disciplined or otherwise damaged the plaintiff." Moore, 727 F. Supp. at 1160 (citing Baz v. Walters, 782 F.2d 701, 706 (7th Cir. 1986)). See also Johnson, 762 F.2d at 672. Under Title VII, employers are required to reasonably accommodate employees' religious practices where accommodation does not cause undue hardship to the company's business interests. Shapolia, 992 ...


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