Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison Case Analysis

Do you feel the alternatives suggested by the court of appeals were viable for TWA? Why or why not? If not, what would you recommend?

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Theoretically, the suggested alternatives could be considered viable; however, in actual practice, they would represent undue hardship on the part of TWA to accommodate a single employee as well as compromises the shift and job preferences of other employees that have “earned” it under the seniority system. The first reason compromises workplace safety protocols, which could have a disastrous outcome since the personnel involved maintain and overhaul aircraft. Proper procedures need to be followed to ensure that maintenance errors that could cause a plane to crash do not occur. The second alternative places TWA in a position where it has to pay more to maintain a single position based on the religious observance of an individual employee, which Title VII does not require employers to do. The last alternative is in direct violation of the seniority system, which TWA and the aircraft workers union have agreed on.

One potential recommendation that TWA, the union, and the court system failed to consider is to shift the employee back to his original position where he had seniority and transfer someone else. This addresses all the concerns that have been brought up and could have resolved the issue without it escalating and reaching the Supreme Court.

Does it seem inconsistent to prohibit religious discrimination yet say that collective bargaining agreements cannot be violated to accommodate religious differences? Explain.

The purpose of Title VII was to ensure that religious discrimination does not occur when it comes to the employment practices established by a company. The Supreme Court pointed out that the statute was not created to require an employer to discriminate against other employees to accommodate the religious practices of another. In this case, there was an already well-established seniority system in place that was agreed upon by TWA and the aircraft workers union (Livingood, 1978). Attempting to accommodate the religious requirements of one employee would have resulted in the company experiencing undue hardship. Non-discrimination in the workplace based on a person’s religious practices does not entitle such an individual to receive unequal treatment in the form of a preferential work schedule (Little, 2011). The point of Title VII in the first place was to ensure equality in the workplace, regardless of a person’s religion, and not give people with religious observances preferential treatment (Livingood, 1978).

Based on the chapter reading, how would you have handled this conflict if you had been Hardison’s manager? What have you learned from reading the court’s decision?

One potential resolution to the issue would have been to shift Hardison back to his original position in the company where he had seniority. All the problems, in this case, stem from Hardison being transferred and, as such, if he was brought back to this original job and given the same schedule that he had before based on the seniority he had, then the source of his complaints could have been addressed. In fact, another employee from the same department could have been chosen to take his place in the new department, thereby resolving the issue. TWA would need to ensure that this employee has no religious observances to consider before placing him in the new position.

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Another potential solution could have come in the form of making seniority “transferrable” since it does seem unfair that seniority in one department for an employee does not shift when they are transferred. If an employee’s ranking were made to be transferable, this would have been a practice that all employees could have benefited from and not just a single individual. The main lesson that can be derived from the court’s decision is that there are limits to how far a company can go when it comes to observing non-discrimination practices.

Reference List

Little, A. (2011). Title VII and Religious Accomodation: An Evidentiary Approach To The Undue Hardship Standard Under Trans World Airlines V. Hardis. Southern Law Journal, 21(2), 225-252.

Livingood, J. M. (1978). The Status of Religious Accommodation After the Hardison Case. Labor Law Journal, 29(4), 226-235.

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