A federal appeals court has rejected the appeal of a state man who was fired in 2018 by a school district after he refused to attend mandatory workplace LGBTQ training.
Raymond Zdunski claimed that an LGBTQ class offered by his employer, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, was “aimed at changing his religious beliefs about gender and sexuality” and was against his religion as a devout Christian, The Buffalo News reported. the
The Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) denied Zdunski’s request for religious accommodations.
In the lawsuit, Zdunski sought reinstatement, back pay and $10 million in damages, but District Court Judge Jeffrey Crawford dismissed the case a year ago.
On Monday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan agreed with that decision and upheld BOCES’ release from Asheville, New York.
Both judges reversed Zdunski’s claims of “unlawful religious discrimination” and sided with BOCES. His former employer claims Zdunski was fired after repeatedly refusing to complete a mandatory training program designed to create a safe environment for students and staff.
“It just seems like the country is against the Christian way of life, and that’s for everything,” Zdunski said in response. “We are not allowed to practice our way of life, but it seems others can.”
David O’Rourke, district superintendent and executive director of the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, reiterated that Zdunski was not fired because of his religious beliefs, but because he repeatedly refused to participate in a mandatory training program.
“We agree with both the United States District Court and Court of Appeals decisions and remain committed to creating a safe and supportive environment for all students and staff,” O’Rourke said.
Zdunski worked for nearly seven years at the BOCES central business office in Fredonia as an accountant, earning $32,000 annually. A week before he was fired, he was promoted to senior accountant.
After refusing to attend the training, Zdunski asked his superiors to organize mandatory training on the persecution of Christians, according to court documents.
In last year’s court ruling in Zdunski v. Crawford, state law requires BOCES to provide annual anti-discrimination training to all employees to maintain an environment free of discrimination and harassment.
If BOCES had allowed Zdunski to miss instruction, they would have violated the anti-discrimination training requirements of the Dignity for All Students Act, which all BOCES employees are required to complete as a condition of their employment, Crawford said.
Zdunsky’s lawyer, Kristina S. Heuser said his rights were violated “for no other reason than to refuse to be taught unbiblical doctrine.”
“Although lower courts have not found in his favor, we are not deterred and will seek redress from the US Supreme Court,” Heuser said.