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On The Front Lines

AT&T Broadband Fires Employee for Sticking to his Religious Beliefs

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute File Suit in Federal Court on Behalf of
Fired Employee's Right to Religious Accommodation in the Workplace

Denver, Co.
--Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed suit on behalf of a Denver man who was fired from his job as a "Quota Specialist" with AT&T Broadband after he refused to sign off on portions of the company's employee handbook that he felt violated his sincerely held religious beliefs. The lawsuit, filed in Denver federal court, seeks back pay and punitive damages arising out of AT&T's refusal to accommodate Albert Buonanno.

Buonanno started working for AT&T in January 1999. In January 2001, AT&T published a new employee handbook. All employees were required to sign a written acknowledgment that they had received it, as well as a "Certificate of Understanding." The Certificate contained a statement that the employee signing it "agreed with and accepted" all of the terms and provisions of the handbook, including its policies and rules. The handbook contained a provision that "each person at AT&T Broadband is charged with the responsibility to fully recognize, respect and value the differences among all of us," including "sexual orientation." However, Buonanno's strongly held religious beliefs regarding the homosexual lifestyle prevented him from condoning or approving the practice of homosexuality. Buonanno shared his concerns about the statement with his immediate supervisor and informed him that he had no problem declaring he would not discriminate against or harass people who were different from him, including homosexuals, but he could not sign the statement required by AT&T because it contradicted his sincerely held religious beliefs. On Jan. 31, 2001, Buonanno presented his written statement and the unsigned Certificate to his supervisor, who alerted AT&T's human resources representative. When Buonanno reported to work the next morning, he was immediately escorted to the human resources representative's office and informed that AT&T would terminate his employment if he refused to signed the Certificate. When Buonanno explained his proposed accommodation to the human resources representative, she informed him that his continued employment at AT&T was dependent on his signature. Buonanno declined to sign the Certificate and was immediately terminated.

"Federal and state law prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees based on religion," stated Ron Rissler, legal coordinator for The Rutherford Institute. "AT&T Broadband's policy goes too far by demanding that their employees forswear their religious values in the name of tolerance├é┬ża form of thought control"

The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.

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Nisha N. Mohammed
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Email: Nisha N. Mohammed