Partner Eve Hill spoke to Law360 about the Fifth Circuit’s recent ruling to extend religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law after judges took up a case even though no specific discriminatory adverse employment action, or enforcement activity in response to that action, had taken place.
The panel’s ruling followed a Texas federal court’s finding that two organizations are exempt from complying with the discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ workers. According to the Fifth Circuit, Bear Creek Bible Church and Christian-owned Braidwood Management, had legal standing in their case because they established “credible fear” that the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, the defendant in the case, will one day bring action against them.
The ruling focused on establishing a “credible fear,” which raised eyebrows of employment and civil rights advocates and lawyers alike, since – as Eve shared with Law360 – establishing legal standing is not typically based on hypotheticals.
“They certainly have to do more than just think there might be a problem someday,” Eve said. “I have to show that my plaintiffs are being discriminated against right now—not that they might hypothetically be discriminated against in the future.”
Despite these concerns, the Fifth Circuit’s decision is likely to be cited in future arguments involving exemptions to anti-discrimination law, further concerning LGBTQ+ rights attorneys and advocates across the nation.
Eve Hill is one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers, known especially for her work with clients with disabilities and LGBTQ+ clients. She has been recognized by Law360 as one of just 12 “Titans of the Plaintiffs’ Bar” for 2023, as well as by Lawdragon as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America (2022 and 2023). Her wide-ranging experience complements Brown, Goldstein & Levy’s decades of dedication to high-impact disability rights cases and its advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families. Eve also leads Inclusivity, BGL’s Strategic Consulting Group, which works with organizations to promote the education, engagement, and employment of people with disabilities. Learn more about Eve here.
Founded in 1982, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a law firm based in Baltimore, Maryland, with an office in Washington, DC. The firm is nationally recognized in a wide variety of practice areas, including complex civil and commercial litigation, civil rights, health care, family law, and criminal defense. Above all else, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a client-centered law firm that brings decades of experience and passionate, effective advocacy to your fight for justice.