Snyder v. Arconic: Fired for Believing What the Bible Teaches

December 14, 2023
By
Joe Barnas

On November 21, Thomas More Society attorneys filed a federal appeal on behalf of Daniel Snyder in Snyder v. Arconic. Daniel is a hardworking and faithful Christian from Iowa, who was a loyal employee of Arconic for a decade before being terminated for expressing his religious beliefs.

Arconic, a large aluminum manufacturer, summarily fired Daniel for a single religious comment objecting to the use of the rainbow to promote “Pride Month”—because the company claimed it violated its “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” or DEI, rules.

Thomas More Society has stepped in to represent Daniel against this illegal instance of religious discrimination and retaliation. “Arconic’s actions clearly violated Mr. Snyder’s right to be free from employment discrimination based on religion,” said Michael McHale, Senior Counsel for Thomas More Society.

Daniel’s religious speech versus Arconic’s “Diversity Policy”

In June 2021, many Arconic employees, including Daniel, received an email inviting employees to respond to a company “Engagement Survey,” an anonymous survey requesting employee feedback.

On the same day, an article was posted on Arconic’s “intranet,” known as “Arconnect,” nearly identical in appearance to the email, about the anonymous engagement survey. On the website, Daniel noticed a rainbow flag promoting “Pride Month.” He had seem similar promotions across the workplace starting that month. For example, a large electronic sign outside his Davenport, Iowa facility, displayed the message, “Happy Pride Month!” next to a color image of the rainbow, immediately followed by a second message stating, “Engagement Survey is Now Open.”

During a night shift, Daniel found his way to the website article where he clicked a link, which he believed to be the same as the one found in the email regarding Arconic’s anonymous survey. He typed into a comment box, “Its a abomination to God. Rainbow is not meant to be displayed as a sign for sexual gender.”

This comment—clearly an expression of religious belief—was actually posted on the Arconic “intranet,” rather than part of an anonymous survey. An Arconic manager saw Daniel’s comment early in the morning. It was quickly removed.

For Daniel, the rainbow is a sign of the Covenant between God and man, given to Noah after the Great Flood. Daniel’s comment was a restatement of Genesis 9:13-16 and stands with the mainstream Christian teaching that the rainbow should not be used to promote ideologies contrary to the teachings of the Bible.

Blatant religious discrimination

On June 8, during his next scheduled shift following posting the comment, Daniel was informed by his supervisor that he was being suspended for three days starting June 11. Daniel was escorted to a meeting with Human Resources. His suspension letter as noted that he would possible receive “further disciplinary action up to and including discharge” for violating Arconic’s “Diversity Policy” with his “offensive comment.”

Daniel asked his supervisor and the HR representative if Arconic’s “Diversity Policy” protected the expression of his religious beliefs or protected him from the offense he felt in the cultural appropriation of God’s symbol, as established in Scripture. The supervisor and HR representative did not respond.

The next day, Daniel was again subjected to another meeting with HR, where he repeated that he believed his response to be anonymous at the time and that Arconic was not considering his sincere religious beliefs. He was quickly asked to leave.

On June 12, Arconic summarily fired Daniel. Later that month, Daniel attended a “grievance hearing” before company representatives. When he told them that he believed his response was anonymous at the time, several of them laughed out loud at him, to his face—publicly humiliating him.

Arconic utterly ignored that Daniel’s comment was based on his sincerely held religious beliefs. Daniel’s Christian beliefs were not news to the Arconic facility’s administrators. The company had previously granted him a religious accommodation to not work on Sundays so that he could preach at a local church in his capacity as a part-time pastor.

The company made no attempt to reasonably accommodate Daniel and it—wrongly—believed it had no obligation to do so. Jorge Rodriguez, Arconic’s Labor Relations Director, testified that “We don’t accommodate [] beliefs that are not related to our jobs.” Yet, he also admitted that Arconic had accommodated LGBTQ employees’ beliefs by giving them space on the company marquee and giving them an “Employee Resource Group.”

Rodriguez also admitted Arconic did not consider any accommodation because it considered Snyder’s comment to be “one of hatred”—allegedly unlike something “Mother Teresa” would ever say—and therefore “not religious” from Arconic’s perspective, as an aluminum manufacturer.

What Arconic did to Daniel is a blatant violation of federal and state law—a clear case of religious discrimination. Daniel’s comment comes straight out of the Books of Genesis and Leviticus. Daniel wrote God’s Truth, as he understood it—but to his Fortune 500 employer, Daniel had committed a grievous offense.

Vindicating Daniel’s religious rights

Earlier this year, the District Court dismissed our case. The trial judge said that because Daniel was not “required” by his religion to express his beliefs, he was not protected by the law. We have appealed Daniel’s case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals because the District Court gravely erred in its ruling.

Here’s why.

Title VII, the federal law that defines, regulates, and prohibits forms of employment discrimination, defines “religion” to include “all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief.”

Indeed, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, “Guidance on Religious Discrimination” recognizes that “religion” in Title VII is not limited to “practices that are mandated or prohibited by a tenet of the individual’s faith.”

Importantly, the First Amendment prohibits courts from delving into an individual’s theology. As Employment Division v. Smith (1990) made clear, “courts must not presume to determine the place of a particular religious belief in a religion.” Smith is echoed in numerous other U.S. Supreme Court precedent on this question. The District Court ran afoul of the First Amendment in attempting to determine whether Daniel was “required” to express his religious belief.

Moreover, the District Court sidestepped the recent landmark religious freedom ruling Groff v. DeJoy (2023). According to federal law, to deny a religious accommodation, employers must prove that such an accommodation would be an “undue burden” on the company. In Groff, the Supreme Court held that such an accommodation result in “substantial increased costs” and “actual imposition on co-workers or disruption of the work routine” to meet the “undue hardship” standard.

In Daniel’s case, Arconic clearly cannot prove such a burden. Indeed, Arconic never even attempted to accommodate Daniel’s religious expression in the first place. But even if it had, Daniel’s single comment on the Arconic company-wide intranet, in the dead of night—promptly removed—clearly did not pose an “undue burden.”

We are seeking to vindicate Daniel Snyder’s religious rights against Arconic’s weaponized “Diversity Policy” and blatant religious discrimination in the workplace.

Read our full Opening Brief in Snyder v. Arconic, here.