bus driver says religious beliefs led to his firing
man refused to take clients to Planned Parenthood clinic
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.”