Security Guard Loses Appeal in Confederate Sticker Discrimination Case

December 14, 2004 ( - A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that a former security guard fired for displaying a Confederate flag sticker on his lunchbox and two flag bumper stickers on his pickup truck could not sue for job discrimination.

>The US 3 rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Curtis Storey was not able to show he had suffered any “adverse employment action” and agreed with US District Judge David Cercone of the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania who had thrown out Storey’s litigation. Storey, who worked for Burns International Security Services, claimed that Burns illegally fired him because of his national origin – his self-proclaimed status as a “Confederate Southern-American” – and his Christian religion.

>However Cercone found that “Confederate Southern-American” did not qualify as a national origin under federal law, and that Storey had not established that his display of a Confederate flag was essential to maintaining a sincerely held religious belief.

>Storey’s lawyer, Kirk Lyons of the Southern Legal Resources Center’s headquarters in Black Mountain, North Carolina., argued that “Confederate Southern-American” is a valid national origin under federal labor law because members of the group share a common culture and history of persecution dating back to the Civil War era.

>According to the appeals court ruling written by Circuit Judge Theodore McKee, Storey put the stickers on his lunch box and his truck in August 1998. One bumper sticker read “The South was Right” while the other proclaimed “Heritage not Hate.”

>Two of his Burns supervisors later told Storey that the company was implementing a diversified hiring program and ordered him to remove the stickers, saying Burns had a “zero tolerance” policy for Confederate symbols.

>In his ensuing lawsuit, Storey not only complained about discrimination based on national origin, but said his Confederate stickers were also religious in nature because they incorporated the cross of Saint Andrew. Therefore, he said displaying his stickers was like displaying a traditional cross or the Star of David.

>However McKee said Storey’s arguments weren’t valid.

“Nothing in Storey’s complaint suggests that Burns’ requirement [that he remove the Confederate flag stickers] conflicted with a sincerely held belief that was endemic to his professed national origin or religion claims,” McKee wrote. “By his own account, Storey only ‘displayed these stickers because he is proud of being a Confederate Southern-American’ and ‘is interested in sharing his passion for his heritage with others.’ He does not claim that anything fundamental to his national origin or religion requires display of Confederate symbols.”

>The opinion is at .