Silo v. CHW Medical Found., 27 Cal. 4th 1097 (2002)

Terence Silo worked as a file clerk for CHW, a medical clinic sponsored by three Roman Catholic congregations. Approximately 16 months after he started working for CHW, Silo experienced a “religious conversion” after which time he became an evangelical Christian. After a patient and several coworkers complained about Silo’s “preaching,” he was repeatedly counseled “not to use the word ‘God’ unless it’s off the clock.” Eventually, Silo was terminated for poor performance and “soul saving on clinic premises.” Among other things, he sued for religious discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and wrongful termination in violation of the public policy against religious discrimination. The California Supreme Court granted review to determine whether CHW could be liable for wrongful termination under these circumstances since it was otherwise exempt from religious discrimination claims under the FEHA. The Supreme Court held that there is no fundamental and substantial public policy that prohibits a religious employer from terminating an employee because of his or her “objectionable religious speech in the workplace.” (The Supreme Court acknowledged, however, that a 1999 amendment to the FEHA (codified at California Government Code § 12926.2) might have affected the outcome of the employee’s lawsuit had his termination occurred after its enactment.)