Posts Tagged ‘religious accommodation’

Blunder on Religious Accommodation Costs Employer $38K to Settle EEOC Title VII Lawsuit

Sometimes all it takes is a new supervisor to come on board and gum up the works to put the employer in trouble with the law.

Decostar Industries, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of automotive parts based in Carrollton, Ga., will pay $38,500 and provide other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Feb. 9.

The EEOC charged in its suit that Dina Lucas Velasquez made numerous requests to be excused from Decostar’s requirement that all employees work overtime hours on designated Saturdays because her religious beliefs prohibited her from working during the Sabbath, which she observed from sundown on Friday until sundown Saturday. The EEOC claims that Decostar initially approved Velasquez’s request for accommodation until January 2014, when a new supervisor took over her department and repeatedly denied her ongoing request for a religious accommodation. Decostar eventually discharged Velasquez on Oct. 27, 2014, after she refused to violate her religious beliefs.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Newnan Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary damages to Velasquez, the consent decree settling the lawsuit requires Decostar to adopt and implement a new policy for employees to request a religious accommodation for their bone fide religious beliefs. The decree also requires that the company provide annual equal employment opportunity training to its managers. The two-year decree further requires the company to post a notice to its employees about the lawsuit and to provide periodic reporting to EEOC about disability discrimination complaints.

“It is unconscionable and unlawful for employers to force members of their workforce to choose between their livelihood and their religion,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the agency’s Atlanta District Office. “This settlement shows the EEOC’s dedication to the protection of religious freedom in the workplace as well as the company’s commitment to prevent similar circumstances from arising in the future.”

EEOC Bags $94K Settlement for Employee Denied Time Off for Jewish Holiday Observance

The alleged failure to find an accommodation for a Jewish employee who wanted time off to observe the Jewish New Year came back to bite his employer.

XPO Last Mile, Inc., a logistics company that specializes in the delivery of items such as office furniture, home furnishings and fitness equipment, will pay $94,541 and furnish significant relief to settle a federal religious discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Jan. 30.

According to the EEOC’s suit, XPO Last Mile’s operations manager offered an applicant a dispatcher/customer service position at its Elkridge, Md., office and told him his start date would be on Oct. 3, 2016. When the applicant told the operations manager he could not start work then because he celebrated the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah on that date, the operations manager replied that he thought it would be acceptable for the applicant to start on Oct. 4. Later that evening, however, the market vice president called and told the applicant that the company would not give him a religious accommodation. XPO Last Mile violated federal law when it revoked its offer of employment because the applicant was unable to work on Rosh Hashanah due to his religious beliefs, the EEOC said.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (EEOC v. XPO Last Mile, Inc., Civil Action No.1-17:cv-01342), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $94,541 in monetary relief to the applicant, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins XPO Last Mile from terminating employees based on religion or denying religious accommodations absent an undue hardship in the future. The company will implement and distribute to all employees a detailed policy against religious discrimination. XPO Last Mile will provide training on unlawful employment discrimination, which will emphasize prohibiting religious discrimination and on providing religious accommodations. The company will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any religious accommodation requests and post a notice regarding the settlement.

“The EEOC is gratified that XPO Last Mile worked with us to reach an amicable settlement which compensates the applicant and ensures that no employees or applicants are discriminated against based on religion,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.

[Not] Skirting the Law: $22K Payment Closes EEOC Suit Against Bake Shop Over Dress Code

A Michigan cafe and bake shop could have saved itself some grief and legal costs had it granted a female employee’s request that she be allowed to wear a skirt to work.

A Michigan-based franchisee of Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop will pay $22,500 to settle a religious accommodation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Sleneem Enterprises, LLC violated federal law by firing Amanda Corley after she requested a religious accommodation. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in 2015, Corley was hired by Sleneem to work at the Tim Hortons cafe in Romulus, Mich. On Nov. 16 of that year, Corley requested that she be permitted to wear a skirt instead of pants, in accordance with her Pentecostal Apostolic religious beliefs. Corley attempted to present a letter from her pastor, explaining her need to wear a skirt. Rather than allow Corley to wear a skirt, Sleneem fired her, the EEOC said.

See my write up of the lawsuit here.

Such alleged conduct violates Tile VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Sleneem Enterprises, LLC, dba Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop, No. 2:17-cv-12337) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, in addition to providing for the award of monetary relief to Corley, prohibits any similar discrimination in the future and requires Sleneem to train its shift supervisors and managers on all forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VII, including the obligation to provide reasonable religious accommodations.

“Under federal law, an employer has an obligation to fairly balance an employee’s right to practice religion with operating its business,” said Miles Uhlar, trial attorney for EEOC’s Detroit Field Office. “When this obligation is not met, the EEOC will step in and protect workers.”

EEOC: Senior Center Forced Seventh Day Adventists to Work on Sabbath, Violating Title VII

As we approach the Jewish High Holidays and with other religious observance looming, remember your obligations as an employer to make reasonable accommodation for your employees’ faith requirements.

Century Park Associates, LLC, dba Garden Plaza at Greenbriar Cove, which operates a senior and assisted living community in Ooltewah, Tenn., violated federal law by demanding that two employees work on the Sabbath, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Century Park required two employees to work on their Sabbath in violation of their religious beliefs. The two employees, members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The company told the employees they had to agree to work on Saturdays as part of a new work schedule. Although the employees offered to work on Sundays, Century required they agree to work on Saturdays. When the two employees refused due to their religious beliefs, the company asked them to resign, and the two employees resigned at Century Park’s request. The two employees sought reinstatement to work and religious accommodations, but the owner denied their request.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from denying reasonable accommodation of an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Century Park Associates, LLC, d/b/a Garden Plaza at Greenbriar Cove, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00231) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Southern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting Century Park from denying religious accommodations in the future, as well as back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, which will go to the two discharged employees.

“Employers should not force employees to choose between their job and their religious beliefs,” said Katharine Kores, director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “Making reasonable accommodations to employees’ religious beliefs — except where it poses an undue hardship — is not just reasonable – it’s required by federal law.”

According to its website, Century Park operates over 40 retirement communities in 20 states. It provides seniors with a comfortable and active place to call home.

Here’s the EEOC’s webpage discussing religious accommodation under Title VII.

EEOC Files Title VII Suit Against Cafe Over Pants Requirement for Female Pentecostal Employee

We take a break today from disability discrimination cases to bring you news of a religious discrimination lawsuit filed against an employer who insisted on strict application of its dress code, at the alleged expense of an employee’s right to a religious accommodation.

Sleneem Enterprises, LLC, a franchise operator of Tim Horton’s Café and Bake Shop in Romulus, Mich., violated federal law by refusing to permit an employee to wear a skirt instead of pants in accordance with her religious beliefs, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit filed on June 19.

In its suit, the EEOC charged that employee Amanda Corley wore a skirt to work at the Tim Horton’s Romulus location instead of the standard uniform pants. She did so pursuant to her Pentecostal Apostolic faith. When she attempted to present a letter from her pastor explaining why she could not wear pants, management refused to accept the letter and informed her she was fired.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodations to employees. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 2:17-cv-12337 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Sleneem from discriminating against other employees who need religious accommodations in the future as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and other affirmative relief for Corley.

“Sleneem’s refusal to accommodate Corley and the decision to instead fire her were completely unjustified and unlawful,” said EEOC Indianapolis Regional Attorney Kenneth Bird, whose jurisdiction includes Michigan. “It would have been simple to allow Ms. Corley to wear a skirt, and would not have negatively impacted the business in any way. Employers have an obligation to provide these types of reasonable religious accommodations, and when they fail to, the EEOC will step in.”

$30K Settlement Closes EEOC’s Religious Bias Suit for Rastafarian Employee at Orlando Resort

Grooming standards sometimes have to give weigh to religious accommodation in order to avoid violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Latest case in point: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced yesterday that an Orlando staffing company dedicated to Central Florida’s massive hospitality industry will pay $30,000 and implement a company-wide accommodation policy to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit

The EEOC’s lawsuit filed last July charged that HospitalityStaff violated religious discrimination law by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to Courtnay B. Joseph, a Rastafarian, when it required him to cut his dreadlocks to comply with its client’s grooming standards in order to keep his position at an Orlando-area hotel. The EEOC said that HospitalityStaff took Joseph off his assignment and never reassigned him.

Rastafarians wear dreadlocks as part of their sincerely held religious belief, and making an employment decision because of such a religious practice violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under the decree, which was agreed to soon after EEOC filed its lawsuit, HospitalityStaff agreed to pay Joseph $30,000 in damages. The company will also amend its employee handbook and policy manual to include a clear policy providing for reasonable accommodations covering both disability and religious-based requests. Further, HospitalityStaff agreed to provide training to its managers and human resources personnel, and to voluntarily provide information to EEOC concerning its handling of religious discrimination complaints for three years.

“HospitalityStaff’s decision to provide training and to implement policy changes relating to reasonable accommodations should be commended,” said Kimberly A. Cruz, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office. “These policy changes demonstrate the company’s commitment to providing reasonable accommodations to its employees with sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“The Supreme Court’s opinion in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch reminds us that we must be vigilant in protecting sincere religious expression in the workplace,” said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office. This is particularly important where the Commission has recognized ‘the increasing complexity of employment relationships and structures, including temporary workers, staffing agencies, and independent contractor relationships’ in an ever more on-demand economy.”

EEOC Sues Employer for Not Allowing Jewish Applicant to Delay Job Until After Rosh Hashanah

An employer has to be meshugena (Yiddish for crazy) to deny an employee time off to observe the Jewish High Holidays. It’s only one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar.

To defend this action under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the employer has to show that giving the employee time off would be an undue hardship for it.

That’s what a Maryland-based company is up against in having to respond to a lawsuit filed against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf a Jewish applicant who refused to start his new job until after Rosh Hashanah.

The EEOC filed this religious discrimination lawsuit against XPO Last Mile, a logistics company that specializes in the delivery of items such as office furniture, home furnishings and fitness equipment on behalf of Tzvi McCloud .

McCloud had applied for a dispatcher/customer service position at the company’s Elkridge, Md., office. According to the suit, when the operations manager called McCloud and told him to report to work on Oct. 3, 2016, McCloud advised that he could not start on that date because he celebrated the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah, on that date. The operations manager replied that he thought it would be acceptable for McCloud to start on Oct. 4. Later that evening, however, the market vice president called and told McCloud he must report to work on Oct. 3. The EEOC said the market vice president told McCloud that the company only honored federal holidays, and that if he gave McCloud a religious accommodation, he would have to extend them to other employees.

McCloud did not report to work on Oct. 3 due to his mandatory religious observance. When he reported to work on Oct. 4, he was sent home. The EEOC said XPO Last Mile violated federal law when it revoked its offer of employment because McCloud was unable to work on Rosh Hashanah.

“Federal law requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to work schedules or rules that will allow an applicant or employee to practice his or her religion unless it would be an undue hardship,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “Unfortunately, XPO Last Mile’s intransigent refusal to provide a religious accommodation cost them the services of a hard worker and led to this lawsuit.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “The freedom to exercise one’s religious beliefs is one of our nation’s fundamental values. Mr. McCloud simply asked if he could start work one day later than scheduled so he could observe Rosh Hashanah, one of the Jewish High Holy Days. A one-day postponement of a start date is not an undue hardship.”

For a primer on the do’s and don’ts of religious discrimination under Title VII, click this page on EEOC’s web site.