Our civil rights laws — and many Supreme Court cases — encourage employers to do lots of things in the workplace to ensure that people of all backgrounds are valued, respected employees. Individuals with disabilities are given special equipment. Muslim workers can obtain scheduling accommodations for prayer breaks or dress code deviations for headscarves. Government workers have been excused from handing out fliers for meat products because they were vegan. Prison guards who disagree with the death penalty are allowed to avoid being involved in executions. The Supreme Court recently ruled that shipping centers cannot require pregnant women to work shifts requiring heavy lifting.
That’s why a federal judge said, in a ruling that became final last month, that the state broke the law when it targeted me and refused to let me shift my schedule like other magistrates — who might move their workday to avoid rush hour or ensure that they can pick up their kids from day care. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission judge said that I never should have lost my job and that the state could provide same-sex marriages while still protecting the religious beliefs of its employees. North Carolina then admitted it had treated me unfairly, and it entered a substantial settlement, giving me back my pay and retirement benefits that were unjustly taken away. Since this case began, the state also passed a law saying that if too many magistrates wanted to abstain from officiating same-sex marriage, supervisors could import magistrates from other counties to administer them.