A federal appeals court has rejected the case of a New York clerk who sought $10 million following his termination. Raymond Zdunski was employed at Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES for seven years but was terminated in 2017 for refusing to participate in an LGBTQ training program. Zdunski claims that the training was paramount to indoctrination and violated his religious beliefs. However, the court ruled in favor of the defendants, who argued the training was intended to combat workplace discrimination. After the hearing, Zdunski blasted the court’s ruling, saying, “It just seems like the country is against the Christian way of life, and it’s for everything else.” Kristina S. Heuser, Zdunski’s lawyer, claims that the case will be brought to the Supreme Court.
By Cortney O’Brien; March 15, 2023
A federal appellate court rejected the appeal of a former account clerk in western New York who was fired from his job for refusing to attend a mandatory LGBTQ training in 2018.
Raymond Zdunski was employed at Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES for seven years before his termination, which he likened to “unlawful religious discrimination.” He sued the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES seeking reinstatement, back pay and $10 million in damages. The Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) is a public organization that was created by the New York State Legislature in 1948 to provide shared educational programs and services to school districts within the state.
The plaintiff had argued that the LGBTQ training and makeup session were “aimed at changing his religious beliefs about gender and sexuality,” and that attending the training “would have caused him to violate the religious teachings to which he adheres,” according to the lawsuit. BOCES denied his request for a religious accommodation.
District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford dismissed Zdunski’s lawsuit in 2022, concluding that his claims were “unsupported” and agreeing with BOCES that he was fired for refusing to attend the trainings, which BOCES had maintained were intended to help prevent discrimination in the workplace.
“Plaintiff’s unsupported assumption that Defendants believe him to be ‘bigoted’ due to his religious beliefs is insufficient to support an inference of discrimination,” Crawford said in his ruling. “In sum, no facts in the record support a finding that Mr. Zdunski was terminated because of his religion; rather, the evidence in the record supports Defendants’ position that his termination was due to repeatedly refusing to attend a mandatory employee training.”
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed BOCES this week, saying in its opinion that Zdunski had failed to provide “sufficient evidence” for his claims.
“It just seems like the country is against the Christian way of life, and it’s for everything else,” Zdunski responded. “We’re not allowed to practice our way of life but anyone else can, it seems.”
Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES said in a statement to Fox News Digital that Zdunski was fired for “insubordination.”
“Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES is committed to providing educational and employment opportunities in an environment free from unlawful discrimination, including harassment and intimidation,” David O’Rourke, Ph.D., District Superintendent and CEO, said. “The plaintiff in this matter was terminated for insubordination after he repeatedly refused directives to attend a mandatory cultural competency training program that was designed to facilitate a safe environment for both students and staff consistent with Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES obligations under New York State and Federal laws. We agree with the decisions of both the United States District Court and the Court of Appeals, and remain committed to fostering a safe and supportive environment for all students and staff.”
Zdunski’s lawyer Kristina S. Heuser, meanwhile, maintained that her client’s rights were violated “for no other reason than his refusal to be indoctrinated with anti-biblical teaching.”
“Though the lower courts did not find in his favor, we are not deterred and will seek redress from the U.S. Supreme Court,” she added, according to The Buffalo News.
Heuser expanded in comments to Fox News Digital.
“We are very disappointed that the Second Circuit decided the matter incorrectly,” Heuser said. “This country was founded upon and for religious freedom, but these days people of faith — particularly Christian faith — are among the most discriminated against in our nation. Mr. Zdunski sought a religious accommodation to avoid a training his employer was requiring aimed at teaching ‘cultural sensitivity’ towards transgender persons.”
“Mr. Zdunski was an account clerk,” Heuser continued. “He worked on spreadsheets in a cubicle. The training was not even remotely related to the requirements of his job. The Left will stop at nothing to force their ideology upon everyone, including stripping people of their livelihood if they do not submit to their beliefs. Mr. Zdunski refused to violate his sincerely held religious beliefs by submitting to teaching that contradicts what Scripture teaches, which is his absolute right under prevailing federal law. The Court’s ruling was clearly erroneous and we intend to petition the United States Supreme Court to hear Mr. Zdunski’s case.”
U.S. workplaces have in recent years experienced more of a push toward diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But a recent study found that companies are slashing DEI jobs while workers were leaving these fields at a higher rate than non-DEI positions. The study by Revelio Labs said last year companies who had layoffs cut DEI positions at a 33% rate versus a 21% cut for other roles.