EEOC Sues Company for Not Accommodating Truck Driver Who Refused to Work on Sabbaths

A South Carolina company is taking heat from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for terminating a driver who refused to work on his Sabbath.

The EEOC said it filed suit yesterday against  J.C. Witherspoon Jr. Inc., for violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in its treatment of  Leroy Lawson, a Hebrew Pentecostal for approx­imately 35 years. As a Hebrew Pentecostal, he holds the sincere religious belief that he must not engage in labor during the Biblical Sabbath, which, in Lawson’s faith, begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.

According to the EEOC,  in March 2012, Lawson was hired as a truck driver at the company’s Alcolu facility. During a pre-hire interview, Lawson informed the truck supervisor and foreman that he observes the Sabbath on Saturdays, and would need an accommodation of not working on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs.  In or around April 2012, just weeks after Lawson’s hire, all drivers were required to work on a Saturday, the EEOC said. Although Lawson worked that day, at the end of the day Lawson told the foreman he would not work on a Saturday, his Sabbath, ever again because of his religious beliefs.  The company did not require Lawson to work on a Saturday again until around Dec. 27, 2013.

On December 27, 2013, Lawson was notified that he would have to work the next day, a Saturday.  Lawson refused.  The EEOC alleges that when the Owner of the company learned that Lawson refused to work on Saturdays, the Owner instructed the Foreman to terminate Lawson’s employment.  The EEOC contends that on Dec. 28, 2013, the company terminated Lawson because he would not work on Saturdays.

The EEOC contends that on Dec. 28, 2013, the company terminated Lawson because he would not work on Saturdays.

“Under federal law, employers have an obligation to endeavor to fairly balance an employee’s right to practice his or her religion and the operation of the company,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.

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