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Teachers union contract source of religious discrimination

Contracts that contain clauses that specifically address discrimination might be expected to hold a high level of standard in their hiring policies. However, not true, some Michigan teachers say. A local teachers union was recently thrust into the spotlight for what some believe to be a form of religious discrimination built into their contracts.

Apparently, a 2011 to 2012 contract for the teachers union -- which was eventually extended out to 2017 -- contained wording that specifically discriminated against Christians. Despite previously stating that a union member's religion was not grounds for discrimination, it went on to state that, should two equally qualified people apply, an applicant of minority would be given preference. Not only did this include racial minorities, but applicants who are of a "non-Christian" religion were specifically stated.

There are some who now wonder if they will be asked what religion they practice during an interview for a job or promotion. After the union was alerted to the controversy over the wording in the contract, they announced that they intend to remove the part that is specific to non-Christians for all future contracts. Although they could offer no explanation as to why the wording was there in the first place, their best explanation was that it was an overlooked clause from the 1970s.

But this union's contract with a local school district wasn't alone in their misuse of contracts. After a study was released, it is believed that roughly 60 percent of the contracts between public schools and unions have certain illegal clauses or provisions, some of which may result in illegal discrimination. Michigan teachers who believe that they have experienced religious discrimination based on a "non-Christian" clause such as this one in their contract may have solid footing for an employment discrimination claim. It may be necessary for victims to do research on the laws that specifically apply to their contract before they begin to build a comprehensive defense team that can best serve them on their road to justice.

Source: Michigan Capitol Confidential, Non-Christians Given 'Special Consideration' In Union Teacher Contract, Tom Gantert, March 19, 2014

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