PJI Initiates Lawsuit Alleging Religious Discrimination on Behalf of Hawaii Symphony Orchestra Musician
News Release from Pacific Justice Institute Oct 11, 2023
Honolulu, HI — Pacific Justice Institute has filed a lawsuit on behalf of John P. Gallagher, against the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra (“HSO”). The lawsuit arises from HSO’s failure to grant Mr. Gallagher a religious accommodation to a term of employment and its adverse employment actions against him, in violation of Title VII and its Hawaii State equivalent, HRS Chapter 378.
Mr. Gallagher is a world-class bassist who has been a loyal, core member of HSO since 1997. He is a dedicated musician devoted to his passion as a bass player and to HSO’s mission.
In October 2021, HSO imposed a COVID vaccine mandate on all its musicians, which even allowed for religious accommodations. Accordingly, Mr. Gallagher submitted a request for religious accommodation, citing his sincerely held Catholic beliefs. He was prepared and willing to follow all reasonable alternatives, such as masking and periodic COVID testing, as permitted by the policy itself and routinely allowed by other businesses and local governments.
Unfortunately, HSO flatly rejected Mr. Gallagher's request and claimed that granting it would cause an 'undue hardship' for HSO. Consequently, they promptly placed Mr. Gallagher on indefinite unpaid leave, despite his readiness, willingness, and ability to perform.
“Guided by the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Groff v DeJoy, Mr. Gallagher’s religious accommodation should have been granted because it would not have created an undue hardship for HSO,” said PJI Hawaii Staff Attorney, Joe Gomes.
Even more troubling is that while Mr. Gallagher was denied religious accommodation and placed on indefinite unpaid leave, it seems that HSO granted religious accommodation to another HSO musician who was not subjected to unpaid leave.
PJI is proud to represent Mr. Gallagher. He has held fast to his faith and his desire to protect religious liberties under the law.