PIA Looks at Printers & Supreme Court Decision

WARRENDALE, PA | The United States Supreme Court recently decided that Masterpiece Cakeshop, a Colorado baker, had the right to refuse service to customers based on his sincerely held religious beliefs. The Printing Industries of America (PIA) has issued its opinion on how this may affect printers.

The Court very specifically based its decision on the fact that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission did not fairly and impartially enforce Colorado's anti-discrimination law that bars discrimination against sexual orientation and religion. Because the Court's decision is quite narrow, it does not provide carte blanche permission to refuse service in the name of religious freedom pursuant to the First Amendment. The Court limited the breadth of its decision to occasions when there is a demonstrated failure to remain neutral when weighing civil rights against the free exercise of religion.

For printers, the question about whether a company can refuse a customer's business arises most commonly in the context of doing work for controversial customers or on controversial subjects. The first step, says the PIA, is to consider whether the customer is in a class protected by the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. These statutes prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, and mental or physical disability, and customers who are refused service based on these characteristics could sue and may win a judgment against the printer.

If the customer is not in a protected class, then the printer may refuse service, PIA says. For example, if the customer wanted the printer to create packaging for a product that had been tested on animals, and the printing company does not want the job due to that practice, the printer can refuse service because companies that use animal testing do not fall within a protected class.

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