Court Finds no Bias in Wal-Mart Firing of Anti-Gay Employee

April 6, 2011 ( – A federal appellate court has found that the firing of a Wal-Mart employee who chastised a co-worker for being lesbian was not religious discrimination.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Wal-Mart fired Tanisha Matthews because she violated company policy when she harassed a coworker, not because of her beliefs. “[I]f Matthews is arguing that Wal-Mart must permit her to admonish gays at work to accommodate her religion, the claim fails,” the court stated in its decision.  

According to the news report, Matthews, during a break, took part in a conversation about God and homosexuality. The next day, an employee informed a manager that Matthews had made inappropriate comments about gays to a lesbian employee named Amy. Over the next three months, Wal-Mart interviewed and obtained statements from employees who were present.  

The Sun-Times said Amy reported that Matthews was “screaming over her” that God does not accept gays; they should not “be on earth”; and they will “go to hell” because they are not “right in the head.” Five other employees confirmed that Matthews had said gays are sinners who are going to hell.  

Wal-Mart fired Matthews after concluding she had engaged in behavior that violated the company’s Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy, which prohibits employees from engaging in conduct that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment based on an individual’s status, including sexual orientation, and says they can be fired for such conduct.  

Matthews, an Apostolic Christian, sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for religious discrimination, claiming she was fired because of her religious beliefs and not for violating company policy.