Together with the Stanford Religious Liberty Clinic, Renaker Hasselman Scott represents a Los Angeles County employee on claims that the County and the Administrative Committees of its two defined contribution retirement plans unlawfully discriminated against him and violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by refusing his requests to allow him to participate in the plans in a manner consistent with his Muslim religious beliefs. The plaintiff seeks to adhere to tenets of Islamic finance that prohibit certain types of investments, such as investments in alcohol, tobacco, and no-risk bonds. Islamic-compliant mutual funds available on the market conform to these restrictions, but each of the two retirement plans requires that a participant maintain a $25,000 balance in the plan’s “core funds” before he can access mutual fund investments through the plan’s brokerage window, and the core funds do not comply with Islamic finance principles. The plans refused the plaintiff’s requests that they waive or reduce the core funds investment requirement to enable him to participate. The court ruled on November 2, 2020, that claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution may go forward.
The case is Syed v. County of Los Angeles, No 2:19-cv-10410-GW-KES (C.D. Cal.).