10/31/2011 // Los Angeles, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // California employment lawyer Eric Grover

Cincinnati, MI (LA Employment Attorney News) — Sometimes you have to choose between your religious beliefs and your job; and that’s exactly what a graduate student did at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). As Fox News reported, Julea Ward says she was wrongfully terminated and her First Amendment rights were violated after she refused to counsel gay and bisexual clients on their relationships, because of her strong religious beliefs. That decision, which ultimately led her to be dismissed from her counseling position at the university, is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals, reports Eric Grover, a California employment lawyer at Keller Grover LLP.

While Ward maintains that she was discriminated against and ultimately fired because of these beliefs, EMU asserts that her actions violated the university’s policy and the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics—prohibiting counselors from discrimination in clinical practice. In July 2010, a federal judge sided with EMU, which led Ward to file an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.

In January 2009, after enrolling in a counseling program at EMU, Ward was assigned a potential client who was seeking counseling for a homosexual relationship. Since Ward’s religious beliefs did not align with the client’s and she therefore couldn’t counsel the client without violating her beliefs, she sought the help of a supervisor.

That client was subsequently reassigned and Ward was required to attend a remediation program so that she could maintain her position in the counseling program, Ward’s lawyers claim. She was ultimately terminated from the counseling program as a result, and EMU denied her appeal to be reinstated.

“This case has never been about religion or religious discrimination,” read a statement issued by Walter Kraft, vice president for communications at EMU, as Fox News reported. “It is not about homosexuality or sexual orientation. This case is about what is in the best interest of a client who is in need of counseling, and following the curricular requirements of our highly-respected and nationally-accredited counseling program … This case is important to Eastern Michigan, it also is important to universities across the country, as well as to the several universities in Michigan that have filed briefs in support of our position in this case.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan also sided with EMU, stating “Students seeking counseling must be able to trust that they will receive the help they need, free from discrimination,” ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling said in a statement to Fox News.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati will ultimately have the final say with regard to whether to uphold the federal court’s decision or to overturn the verdict. A ruling is expected soon.

“Although we are often advocates for employees who have been treated unfairly by their employers, in this case we happen to agree with the position taken by EMU and advocated by the ACLU. An employee is obligated to fulfill their terms of employment just as an employer must do so. As the ACLU stated, students must be able to trust that they will get the help the need without facing discrimination in doing so,” explains Grover, a California employment lawyer.

The experienced Los Angeles employment attorneys at Keller Grover LLP are skilled in handling all aspects of employment law cases. If you or someone you know has been a victim of workplace discrimination and harassment based on race, sex, age, or disability, or you had your wage and hour rights violated, contacting a reputable LA employment attorney can help get the justice and compensation you deserve.

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