Anderson v. Gen. Dynamics Convair Aerospace Div.

Decision Date02 May 1980
Docket NumberCiv. No. 75-0857-S.
Citation489 F. Supp. 782
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of California
PartiesDavid ANDERSON, Plaintiff, v. GENERAL DYNAMICS CONVAIR AEROSPACE DIVISION, a corporation; and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFLCIO, Silvergate District Lodge 50, an association, Defendants.

David Watkins, Jenkins & Watkins, Dallas, Tex., for plaintiff.

Olins & Forester, San Diego, Cal., for IAM District Lodge 50.

Ward W. Waddell, Jr., San Diego, Cal., for General Dynamics, Convair Div.


Plaintiff, David Anderson, an employee of General Dynamics Convair Aerospace Division ("General Dynamics") brought this Title VII action against General Dynamics and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, Silvergate District Lodge 50 ("Union"), claiming that he had been discharged in violation of the religious discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) and 2000e(j). He sought reinstatement of employment benefits, an injunction restraining the Union from discriminating against him, back pay and allowances, attorneys' fees, costs and interest.

Anderson was first employed by General Dynamics in 1956. In 1959 he became a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. A tenet of the church is that its members should not belong to or contribute to labor organizations. Prior to 1972, the collective bargaining agreement between General Dynamics and the Union did not require General Dynamics to employ only Union members. On April 3, 1972, however, a new agreement became effective which contained a provision requiring all employees to join the Union.

Anderson did not join the Union, advising his employer that his religious beliefs prohibited such action. Thereupon, the Union requested that Anderson be discharged and on June 16, 1972, General Dynamics discharged Anderson for the sole reason that he refused to become a member of or contribute to the Union.

After petitioning the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, ("EEOC") Anderson brought this action. On February 2, 1977, a trial was held in this district before Judge Robert V. Denney, sitting by designation. Judge Denney held that because an accommodation of Anderson's religious beliefs was impossible under the circumstances of the case Title VII was not violated, and judgment was entered for defendants.

Anderson appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Anderson v. General Dynamics, 589 F.2d 397 (9th Cir. 1978). That court held that a reasonable accommodation could be made with Anderson paying to a charity an amount of money equivalent to the applicable Union dues. The judgment of the trial court was reversed and the case was remanded back to this court to determine the amount of attorneys' fees to be awarded to Anderson pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k).

In their answers to the complaint, the defendants had raised the issue of the constitutional validity of the accommodation provisions of § 701(j) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j), in light of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Judge Denney in his memorandum opinion, however, stated that since an accommodation was impossible "it is unnecessary to reach defendants' claim that Title VII violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment." The Ninth Circuit noted, at 589 F.2d 402, n. 5, that the constitutional issue was raised "at least obliquely" on appeal. Since the District Court did not reach the constitutional issue, however, the Ninth Circuit "also declined to address any constitutional questions." Id.

On remand, the constitutionality of § 701(j) is again presented to this court by way of defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. This issue is properly presented at this time.1 Because of the controlling decision in this case by the Ninth Circuit, however, there is no issue as to any material fact affecting the constitutional issue.

The defendants urge this court to hold that the accommodation provision of § 701(j) is unconstitutional as an impermissible intrusion against the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The importance of the constitutional issue requires a detailed review of the history of § 701(j), the applicable constitutional standards, and the cases which have attempted to deal with the issue.

No Ninth Circuit or United States Supreme Court decision directly addresses this issue. A number of decisions from district courts and other Circuit Courts of Appeal have been cited by the parties as persuasive authority. These decisions reveal a tortuous and inconclusive path toward resolution of this difficult issue.


Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 19642 primarily to prohibit various forms of racial discrimination throughout the nation.3 Specifically, Title VII4 of the Act was designed to eliminate such discrimination in employment practices. Title VII also includes a phrase which prohibits employers or prospective employers from discrimination in the employment or discharge of workers on the basis of religion.5 Religion was not defined in this enactment.

As stated in TWA v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 97 S.Ct. 2264, 53 L.Ed.2d 113 (1977):

The emphasis of both the language and the legislative history of the statute is on eliminating discrimination in employment; similarly situated employees are not to be treated differently solely because they differ with respect to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Id. at 71, 97 S.Ct. at 2270.

The prohibition against religious discrimination soon raised the question of whether it was impermissible under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) to discharge or refuse to hire a person who for religious reasons refused to work during the employer's normal workweek. Id. at 72, 97 S.Ct. 2264. In 1966 an EEOC guideline dealing with this problem declared that an employer had an obligation under the statute "to accommodate to the reasonable religious needs of employees . . . where such accommodation can be made without serious inconvenience to the conduct of the business." 29 C.F.R. § 1605.1 (1967).

In 1967 the EEOC amended its guidelines to require employers "to make reasonable accommodations to the religious needs of employees and prospective employees where such accommodations can be made without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business." 29 C.F.R. § 1605.1 (1968).

In 1972 Congress attempted a definition of religion in its amendments to Title VII:

The term "religion" includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business.

§ 701(j), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). The intent and effect of this definition and stricture was "to make it an unlawful employment practice under § 703(a)(1) 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) for an employer not to make reasonable accommodations short of undue hardship, for the religious practices of his employees and prospective employees." TWA v. Hardison, supra, 432 U.S. at 74, 97 S.Ct. at 2271.

This statutory obligation of accommodation to the religious beliefs of an employee is precisely what defendants assert is violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.


The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides in part that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . ." The Supreme Court on many occasions has reiterated the principle enunciated in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 67 S.Ct. 504, 91 L.Ed. 711 (1947):

The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. . . . In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between Church and State."

Id. at 15-16, 67 S.Ct. at 511.

In determining whether a statute is, indeed, in violation of the proscription of the Establishment Clause, courts of the United States take the following approach, enunciated, after a consideration of precedent, in Committee for Public Education v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 93 S.Ct. 2955, 37 L.Ed.2d 948 (1973):

Taken together, these decisions dictate that to pass muster under the Establishment Clause the law in question, first, must reflect a clearly secular legislative purpose, . . . second, must have a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion, . . . and, third, must avoid excessive government entanglement with religion . . . Citations omitted.

Id. at 772-773, 93 S.Ct. at 2965.


A number of decisions have considered the EEOC guideline and § 701(j) in light of the Nyquist three-part approach with inconsistent results.

In Dewey v. Reynolds Metals Co., 429 F.2d 324 (6th Cir. 1970), an employee was discharged because he failed to perform scheduled overtime work on Sunday as required by a collective bargaining agreement. The employee claimed that such Sunday work would violate his religious beliefs. The court held that there was no discrimination on the basis of religion, and hence no violation of Title VII, because all employees were treated alike. The court also noted that if the EEOC guideline was applied, the employer made a reasonable accommodation by instituting a system whereby an employee could find a replacement to work offensive or inconvenient hours.

In denying a petition for rehearing, the Dewey court stated:

Nowhere in the legislative history of Title VII do we find any Congressional intent to coerce or compel one person to accede to or accommodate

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    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • April 20, 1981
    ...I have essentially agreed with, and would adopt, the reasoning and analysis of Judge Schwartz in Anderson v. General Dynamics Convair Aerospace Division, 489 F.Supp. 782 (S.D.Cal.1980), appeal docketed, No. 80-5373 (9th Cir. May 14, 1980). 1 I am not unmindful that that decision has been ap......
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    ...P 30,184, at 11,977-78 (D.Ariz.1979), on remand from 589 F.2d 403 (9th Cir. 1978). Contra, Anderson v. General Dynamics Convair Aerospace Division, 489 F.Supp. 782, 784-91 (S.D.Cal.1980), on remand from 589 F.2d 397 (9th Cir. 1978); Yott v. North American Rockwell Corp., 428 F.Supp. 763 (C.......
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    ...a recent district court case is illustrative of those courts that have taken the opposite view. In Anderson v. General Dynamics Convair Aerospace Div., 489 F.Supp. 782 (S.D.Cal.1980), the court in a well written and carefully reasoned opinion reached the conclusion that the religious accomm......
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