The “Onionhead” Case: Fringe Beliefs And Reverse Religious Discrimination By Employers

Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP

Onionhead is this incredibly pure, wise and adorable character who teaches us how to name it – claim it – tame it – aim it. He wants everyone to know how they feel and then know what to do with those feelings. He helps us direct our emotions in a truthful and compassionate way, which in turn assists us to communicate more appropriately and peacefully. We then approach life from a place of our wellness rather than a place of our wounds.

Peel it – feel it – heal it


Do you think this is a “religion”? Here’s a video that might help you decide:

Click here to view video.

For you employers who think “fringe” beliefs can’t be real religions, think again. In the normal religious discrimination/accommodation context, that means you have to try to accommodate your employees’ religious beliefs even if they aren’t part of an established or “generally recognized” faith tradition. (You may also be required to accommodate if the employee is part of an established religion but has a unique interpretation of his or her religious obligations.) If the belief is “religious” within the meaning of the law, and if the employee’s belief is sincerely held, then the employer can’t discriminate based on that belief and must try to accommodate if the employee needs an accommodation.

And for you employers who adhere to “fringe” or mainstream religious beliefs, beware of committing “reverse religious discrimination” by pushing your beliefs on your employees. In this case, the employer will have to go to trial against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on claims that the owners and managers — who used “Onionhead” as a team-building tool — discriminated against, harassed, and retaliated against a number of employees who were Catholic, Lutheran, and “nones” for not accepting Onionhead.

The decision is long, but fascinating. Although not as fascinating as the “Harnessing Happiness/Onionhead” website, products, and YouTube videos. May the Onionhead be with you!

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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