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Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2018 by Jules VanSant.

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Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court decided that a Colorado baker had the right to refuse service to customers based on his sincerely held religious beliefs. The Court very specifically based its decision on the fact that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission did not fairly and impartially enforce Colorado’s anti-discrimination law that bars discrimination against sexual orientation and religion. Because the Court’s decision is quite narrow, it does not provide carte blanche permission to refuse service in the name of religious freedom pursuant to the First Amendment. The Court limited the breadth of its decision to occasions when there is a demonstrated failure to remain neutral when weighing civil rights against the free exercise of religion. Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Slip Opinion No. 16-111 (U.S.S.C. June 4, 2018).

For printers, the question about whether a company can refuse a customer’s business arises most commonly in the context of doing work for controversial customers or on controversial subjects. The first step is to consider whether the customer is in a class protected by the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. These statutes prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, and mental or physical disability, and customers who are refused service based on these characteristics could sue and may win a judgment against the printer.

If the customer is not in a protected class, then the printer may refuse service. For example, if the customer wanted the printer to create packaging for a product that had been tested on animals, and the printing company does not want the job due to that practice, the printer can refuse service because companies that use animal testing do not fall within a protected class.

For questions on this issue, please contact Printing Industries of America’s Director of Human Relations Adriane Harrison for assistance at 412-259-1707 or aharrison@printing.org.

Source: PIA HR Flash Report