Rejection of Sabbath day-off demand is not religious discrimination at work

by on December 31, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Company did enough to accommodate religious observance

A recent case helps us understand how far companies have to go to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and avoid claims of religious discrimination at work. It also demonstrates how documenting performance can fend off religious discrimination lawsuits.

The case involved a U.S. Postal Service employee who was an orthodox Jew. The man worked a Monday-Friday route until his department was reorganized.

He bid on a new route that required Saturday hours. His supervisor, who recognized that the man’s religious beliefs prevented him from working on the Sabbath, had urged him not to bid on the route and offered other Monday-Friday routes. Fearing loss of seniority, the employee accepted the one requiring Saturday hours.

Then he refused to work on Saturdays. After receiving several disciplinary notices, he changed his mind and agreed to take a Monday-Friday route. Conflict resolved.

But then, he sought a promotion to postal inspector and was denied the job due in part to his disciplinary record. He sued for religious discrimination at work, alleging that the postal service failed to accommodate his religious observance, which led to the disciplinary problems that contributed to his being denied the postmaster position.

The employer prevailed in court. Two things influenced the outcome:
· The company made reasonable accommodations to the employee
· It carefully documented the employee’s disciplinary problems.
Cite:Cosme v Henderson, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. No. 01-6032. 3/29/02.

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