bus driver says re­li­gious be­liefs led to his fir­ing

man re­fused to take clients to Planned Par­ent­hood clinic

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Steven Krey­tak

A for­mer bus driver has sued the Cap­i­tal Area Ru­ral Trans­porta­tion Sys­tem, charg­ing that the nine-county tran­sit ser­vice dis­crim­i­nated against him based on his re­li­gion when he was fired for re­fus­ing to drive women to a Planned Par­ent­hood clinic in Jan­uary.

Ed­win Graning, who was hired as a driver on April 1, 2009, was “concerned that he might be trans­port­ing a client to un­dergo an abor­tion” when he was as­signed to take two women to Planned Par­ent- hood, ac­cord­ing to his law­suit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Austin.

Graning is seek­ing re­in­state­ment, back pay and undis­closed dam­ages for pain, suf­fer­ing and emo­tional dis­tress. He is rep­re­sented by lawyers from the Amer­i­can Cen­ter for Law & Jus­tice, founded by evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian leader Pat Robert­son.

Joanna Sali­nas, an Austin lawyer who rep­re­sents the Cap­i­tal Area Ru­ral Trans­porta­tion Sys­tem, said, “CARTS de­nies that it dis­crim­i­nated against Mr. Graning be­cause of his re­li­gion, and we are look­ing for­ward to re­spond­ing to the law­suit in court.”

The sys­tem, op­er­ated un­der an agree­ment among par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­ties, of­fers bus

ser­vice on fixed routes and through re­quested pickup for res­i­dents in the nonur­ban ar­eas of Travis and Wil­liamson coun­ties and in all of Bas­trop, Burnet, Blanco, Cald­well, Fayette, Hays and Lee coun­ties.

Af­ter he was dis­patched to take the women to Planned Par­ent­hood in Jan­uary, Graning called his su­per­vi­sor “and told her that, in good con­science, he could not take some­one to have an abor­tion,” his law­suit said. The women’s names, their lo­ca­tion and the clinic lo­ca­tion were not in­cluded in the law­suit. Planned Par­ent­hood also pro­vides health care ser­vices un­re­lated to abor­tion.

Graning, a Kyle res­i­dent, is “an or­dained Chris­tian min­is­ter who is op­posed to abor­tion,” the law­suit said.

His su­per­vi­sor, who is not named, re­sponded by say­ing, “Then you are re­sign­ing,” the suit said.

Graning de­nied he was re­sign­ing and was later told to drive his bus back to the yard and then was fired, the law­suit said.

Graning’s suit claims vi­o­la­tions of Ti­tle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which pro­hibits em­ploy­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion based on race, color, re­li­gion, sex or na­tional ori­gin.

One of Graning’s lawyers, Thomas S. Bran­don Jr. of Fort Worth, said the law re­quires the trans­porta­tion sys­tem to make ac­com­mo­date Graning’s re­li­gious be­liefs un­less it causes a “sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial hard­ship.”

“We un­der­stand that if some­one is us­ing a pub­lic ser­vice … they are en­ti­tled to go wher­ever with­out re­gard to a dis­tinc­tion on whether it is morally right or not,” Bran­don said. “But Mr. Graning as a driver had a strong re­li­gious con­vic­tion about abor­tion.”

Julius “Jack” Get­man, a la­bor law pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas School of Law, said the case could hinge on whether Graning had made it clear ahead of time that his re­li­gious views would pre­vent him from tak­ing some­one to an abor­tion.

“They (CARTS) may say he was not rea­son­able be­cause ‘he sprung it on us and it is in­sub­or­di­na­tion,’” Get­man said. “They may be able to say that’s re­quired in his job.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.