Kluge v. Brownsburg Community School Corp., No. 21-2475 (7th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Brownsburg Community School Corporation requires its high school teachers to call all students by the names registered in the school’s official student database. Kluge, a teacher, objected on religious grounds to using the first names of transgender students to the extent that he deemed those names not consistent with their sex recorded at birth. After Brownsburg initially accommodated Kluge’s request to call all students by their last names only, the school withdrew the accommodation when it became apparent that the practice was harming students and negatively impacting the learning environment for transgender students, other students in Kluge’s classes and in the school generally, and the faculty.
Kluge brought a Title VII religious discrimination and retaliation suit after he was terminated from his employment. The district court granted the school summary judgment, concluding that the school was unable to accommodate Kluge’s religious beliefs and practices without imposing an undue hardship on the school’s conduct of its business of educating all students and rejected Kluge’s retaliation claim.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The undisputed evidence demonstrates that Kluge’s accommodation harmed students and disrupted the learning environment. No reasonable jury could conclude that harm to students and disruption to the learning environment are de minimis harms to a school’s conduct of its business.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on July 28, 2023.