Sandra Bruff was dismissed by a hospital in 1996 - a firing she claimed had to do with her religious objections to homosexuality. The Supreme Court has agreed to review several employee discrimination cases already this year, including an age discrimination case. Justices declined without comment to accept Bruff's appeal.
Initially, a jury ordered North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo to pay the counselor $2 million. Because of federal lawsuit limits, that was reduced to $300,000. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reduced it to nothing, ruling that the firing was justified.
The court said the hospital made an effort to accommodate Bruff with another position that would not conflict with her religious beliefs. "An employee has a duty to cooperate in achieving accommodation of his or her religious beliefs, and must be flexible in achieving that end. Bruff displayed almost no such cooperation or flexibility," the appeals court said.
Bruff worked in the hospital's employee assistance program. Companies paid the hospital to provide counseling for their workers. "The hospital is open to everyone. It does not want a medically needy segment of the population to stay away from the hospital because of a fear of discrimination," the hospital told the Supreme Court.
The homosexual client complained after Bruff refused to give her advice about her lesbian relationship. Bruff, who is a Christian, also contended that by asking her to counsel clients on homosexual or extramarital relationships, the hospital was asking her to violate state sodomy laws.
The case is Bruff v. North Mississippi Health Services, 01-210.