Donald Yeager v. FirstEnergy Generation Corp. ( 2015 )


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  •                            RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
                                   Pursuant to Sixth Circuit I.O.P. 32.1(b)
                                          File Name: 15a0018p.06
    
                        UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
                                       FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
                                         _________________
    
    
     DONALD J. YEAGER,                                       ┐
                                      Plaintiff-Appellant,   │
                                                             │
                                                             │       No. 14-3693
            v.                                               │
                                                              >
                                                             │
     FIRSTENERGY GENERATION CORPORATION,                     │
                               Defendant-Appellee.           │
                                                             ┘
                             Appeal from the United States District Court
                              for the Northern District of Ohio at Akron.
                          No. 5:14-cv-00567—James S. Gwin, District Judge.
                                  Decided and Filed: January 28, 2015
    
                   Before: BATCHELDER, MOORE, and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.
    
                                          _________________
    
                                              COUNSEL
    
    ON BRIEF: Michael D. Rossi, GUARNIERI & SECREST, P.L.L., Warren, Ohio, for
    Appellant. William D. Edwards, Jeffrey J. Moyle, ULMER & BERNE LLP,Cleveland, Ohio,
    for Appellee.
    
                                          _________________
    
                                               OPINION
                                          _________________
    
           PER CURIAM. Donald J. Yeager appeals the district court’s judgment dismissing his
    civil complaint.
    
           Yeager filed a complaint against FirstEnergy Generation Corporation, alleging that the
    defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his religion, in violation of Title VII of the
    Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4112, by refusing to hire him or by
    
    
    
    
                                                    1
    No. 14-3693                 Yeager v. FirstEnergy Generation Corp.              Page 2
    
    terminating his employment because he failed to provide a social security number. Yeager
    alleged that he had no social security number because he had disclaimed and disavowed it on
    account of his sincerely held religious beliefs. Yeager sought monetary and injunctive relief.
    The district court dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for
    failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
    
            On appeal, Yeager argues that the district court erred in dismissing his complaint.
    Yeager also alleges that the court incorrectly considered matters outside of the pleadings. We
    review de novo the dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
    granted. D’Ambrosio v. Marino, 
    747 F.3d 378
    , 383 (6th Cir. 2014). To survive a motion to
    dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for
    relief that is plausible on its face. Id.
    
            The district court properly dismissed Yeager’s complaint for failure to set forth a viable
    legal claim under either Title VII or Chapter 4112. Under each statute, courts apply the same
    two-step analysis.     See Abbott v. Crown Motor Co., 
    348 F.3d 537
    , 541 (6th Cir. 2003)
    (concluding that the same analysis applies to claims under Chapter 4112 and Title VII). First, we
    determine whether Yeager has established a “prima facie case of religious discrimination,”
    which requires proof that “(1) he holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with an
    employment requirement; (2) he has informed the employer about the conflicts; and (3) he was
    discharged or disciplined for failing to comply with the conflicting employment requirement.”
    Tepper v. Potter, 
    505 F.3d 508
    , 514 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Smith v. Pyro Mining Co., 
    827 F.2d 1081
    , 1085 (6th Cir. 1987)). Second, if Yeager establishes his prima facie case, his employer
    has the burden to show that it could not “reasonably accommodate” his religious beliefs without
    “undue hardship.” Id.; 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j).
    
            Every circuit to consider the issue has applied one of the above two steps to hold that
    Title VII does not require an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious
    beliefs if such accommodation would violate a federal statute. Some courts have proceeded
    under step one to hold that a statutory obligation is not an “employment requirement,” see
    Baltgalvis v. Newport News Shipbuilding Inc., 
    132 F. Supp. 2d 414
    , 418 (E.D. Va.), aff’d, 15 F.
    App’x 172 (4th Cir. 2001); Seaworth v. Pearson, 
    203 F.3d 1056
    , 1057 (8th Cir. 2000), while
    No. 14-3693              Yeager v. FirstEnergy Generation Corp.                 Page 3
    
    others have held under step two that violating a federal statute would impose an “undue
    hardship,” see Sutton v. Providence St. Joseph Med. Ctr., 
    192 F.3d 826
    , 830–31 (9th Cir. 1999);
    Weber v. Leaseway Dedicated Logistics, Inc., 
    166 F.3d 1223
    , at *1 (10th Cir. 1999). These dual
    rationales arrive at the same, sensible conclusion: “[A]n employer is not liable under Title VII
    when accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs would require the employer to violate
    federal . . . law.” Sutton, 192 F.3d at 830. This conclusion is consistent with Title VII’s text,
    which says nothing that might license an employer to disregard other federal statutes in the name
    of reasonably accommodating an employee’s religious practices.
    
            The Internal Revenue Code requires employers such as FirstEnergy to collect and provide
    the social security numbers of their employees. See 26 U.S.C. § 6109(a)(3), (d). In this case, the
    district court followed the example of another decision in our circuit, EEOC v. Allendale Nursing
    Center, 
    996 F. Supp. 712
     (W.D. Mich. 1998), to hold that Yeager’s prima facie claim fails under
    step one because FirstEnergy’s collection of Yeager’s social security number is a “requirement
    imposed by law” and therefore not an “employment requirement.” R. 19 at 4–5 & n.21; accord
    Baltgalvis, 32 F. Supp. 2d at 418; Seaworth, 203 F.3d at 1057. In light of the other circuits that
    have followed the step-two analysis in this exact context, see Sutton, 192 F.3d at 831; Weber,
    166 F.3d at *1, we affirm the district court’s conclusion without deciding whether it is properly a
    step-one or step-two question. We also hold that the district court did not improperly rely on
    matters outside of the pleadings by recognizing the Internal Revenue Code’s legal requirement
    here.
    
            For these reasons, we affirm.