The Supreme Court yesterday refused to intervene in a case involving a Seventh Day Adventist's invocation of his faith in refusing to pay union dues or assessments. But the justices agreed to rule in a case involving a savings and loan association's dismissal of an officer who had accused the S&L of discrimination against women employes.
In the religion case, railroad brakeman and conductor Duane T. Burns of Tucson resigned as chairman of a United Transportation Union local and as a member of the union, saying that Seventh Day Adventist teachings, which he accepts literally, required this. Continued union affiliation would jeopardize his eternal salvation, he said.
At the same time, however, he offered to pay the equivalent of dues -- $19 a month -- to a designated charity. But the offer was rejected by the UTU and the Southern Pacific Transportation Co., which have a collective bargaining agreement requiring SPTC employes to be members of the union in good standing.
The company and the union were willing to waive the membership requirement, but said that contributions to charity would do nothing to pay the bills for union services, and, in addition, violated the bargaining agreement.
Facing discharge, Burns sued but lost in U.S. District Court. Judge James A. Walsh said that he was causing the UTU substantial hardship, saying that if Burns prevailed, many other Seventh Day Adventists, of whom there are about 500,000 in the United States, might flock to jobs in the relatively-high-paying railroad industry.
Last September, however, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the company and the union had failed to show that exempting Burns from payment of dues would work an undue hardship.
Moreover, they hadn't shown the acceptance of charity in lieu of dues would be an undue hardship, and that the Railway Labor Act precluded such an accommodation, wrote Judge Shirley M. Hufstedler. She also rejected a claim that the law barred the company from meeting the ban on religious discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
While letting the 9th Circuit decision stand, the High Court agreed to review a 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a case involving the Great American Federal Savings & Loan Association of Pittsburgh and former director and secretary John R. Novotny.
The dispute came to a head in 1974 when Novotny, who had come up through the ranks in a 24-year career with the S&L, took up the cause of Betty Batis, an employe who claimed to be a victim of sex discrimination.
Persisting in a board meeting, he protested alleged discrimination against women employes as a group. In January 1975, the board reacted by firing him.
Novotny filed a civil rights suit charging a conspiracy to deny equal employment opportunities to women. A lower court held that the S&L officials couldn't have conspired because they were at all relevant times acting in behalf of the association. The 3d Circuit disagreed.