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State Employee Fired For Refusing To Attend LGBTQ Training Loses Appeal

A New York state education agency employee who was fired in 2018 for refusing to attend a mandatory LGBTQ training lost his appeal in federal court.

Raymond Zdunski worked for Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), a New York state public education collaborative, for seven years until he was fired in 2018 for “insubordination” after declined to attend an LGBTQ training because it “goes against the teachings of the Bible,” according to NBC 26. On Monday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals chose to uphold the U.S. District Court for the Western District Of New York’s ruling against Zdunski.

In his ruling last February, District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford sided with Zdunski’s employer, finding that Zdunski did not present “any evidence that the trainings were directed toward him or any other Christian employees in a discriminatory manner.”

“Plaintiff’s unsupported assumption that Defendants believe him to be ‘bigoted’ due to his religious beliefs is insufficient to support an inference of discrimination,” he wrote. “[T]he evidence in the record supports Defendants’ position that his termination was due to repeatedly refusing to attend a mandatory employee training.”

The judge noted that the state agency Zdunski was employed by “recognizes gender expression and sexual orientation as protected classes on equal footing with religion.”

The training was originally hosted because an employee was undergoing gender transition, according to court documents.

“Plaintiff should not be deemed bigoted simply because he holds or expresses beliefs contrary to those sought to be advanced by Plaintiff’s employer or the prevailing culture,” Zdunski argued in a motion for summary judgement filed with the district court. “Defendants have slandered Plaintiff in their self-serving affidavits and other documents submitted in support of their motion.”

Zdunski claimed he had an otherwise “unblemished record” that was “marked only by promotion and praise.”

“If Defendants understood anything about the Christian faith, they would understand that the central tenet of that faith is to love all people,” the document says. “Likewise, Plaintiff in appropriate contexts or when asked may have expressed his disagreement with certain behaviors, but never expressed anything but love for all people, which he is called to do by his faith.”

BOCES did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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