Unreasonable Accommodation or Religious Discrimination at Work

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

Many religious discrimination in the workplace lawsuits deal with accommodation issues

Stopped work at sundown

A religious discrimination lawsuit revolving around the start of a driver’s Sabbath cost UPS $300,000. A federal jury gave him lost wages and punitive damages after UPS fired him for stopping work at sundown on a Friday without finishing his route.

UPS didn’t try to adjust the schedule for the driver’s religious observance.

Cite: Sturgill v. UPS.

Salvation comment caused devilment

A supervisor’s professed concern for a subordinate’s “eternal salvation” helped get the employer into a mess over retaliation.

The employee, annoyed by what he saw as offensive religious comments, complained of religious discrimination at work. The employer fired him, citing a failure to obey orders.

But the court said the employee had just successfully completed a corrective action plan when he was fired, and that smelled suspiciously like retaliation for his complaint.

Cite: Jacobson v. Utah Department of Correction, No. 2:04CV739, D. Utah, 4/18/06.
Company pays for boss’s bias

A warning to harried supervisors trying to ensure that all shifts are manned: Ignoring a worker’s request for a religious accommodation could land the company in hot water.

When a Seventh Day Adventist refused to work on his Sabbath, which is Saturday, his supervisor fired him.

He filed a religious discrimination lawsuit, which settled before the case went to court. The employer agreed to pay the employee $20,000 and adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding religious discrimination in the workplace

Cite: EEOC v. Mr. Bill’s Restaurant.

Religious employee resigned rather than work on the Sabbath

Resignation and religious discrimination lawsuit could have been avoided

It’s important to take requests for religious accommodations seriously. Here’s the story of a company’s half-hearted attempt to accommodate. In the end, it lost a good employee and got sued.

The employer won in court, but the mess might easily have been avoided.

Facts of the case

When a Seventh Day Adventist applied for an airline job, he told the interviewer he couldn’t work from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday – the Sabbath. The interviewer said the airline would try but he couldn’t make any guarantees.

Once hired, the worker was assigned to a shift that required him to work on the Sabbath. He spoke with a supervisor, who mentioned some possible solutions, such as shift swapping with other employees. But that wasn’t a permanent solution. It would mean that the worker would have to search for coworkers willing to trade their shifts for his.

He chose to resign instead. And he sued the airline for religious discrimination in the workplace.

Key issue: airline didn’t force him to resign

The court rejected the employee’s complaint: He hadn’t been constructively discharged. And there was no evidence that anyone at the airline had created conditions that forced him to resign.

The court said that shift-swapping had been a reasonable accommodation, and that the employer had been under no obligation to assign the worker to one of the few shifts that wouldn’t have required him to work on the Sabbath.

Cite: EEOC v. Delta Airlines, U.S. District Court, Eastern District New York, 2002.

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