Posts Tagged ‘religious discrimination’

$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.

Bad Breaks: Car Parts Manufacturer Hit Reverse on Religious Accommodation, EEOC Suit Alleges

A change in supervisors at a car parts manufacturer led to the pulling of a religious accommodation for a Sabbath-observant employee–and that led to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission getting involved.

The EEOC announced yesterday that it has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act against Decostar Industries, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of automotive parts based in Carrollton, Ga.

According to the EEOC’s suit filed yesterday, Decostar violated federal law by firing Dina Lucas Velasquez rather than accommodating her religious beliefs. Sometime in 2010, Decostar required all employees to work mandatory overtime hours on designated Saturdays.

Line worker Velasquez requested that she be excused from working Saturdays due to her religious belief that she cannot work during her weekly Sabbath, which she observes from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. The EEOC said that Decostar initially granted Velasquez’s request until January 2014, when a new supervisor took over her department and denied her ongoing request for a religious accommodation. Decostar subsequently discharged Velasquez on Oct. 27, 2014.

“The EEOC remains vigilant in enforcing the mandates of federal law requiring employers to properly consider all requests and to grant accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director for EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, added, “Unfortunately, employers refusing time off for religious observances has become an increasingly common issue affecting the workforce. We hope that suits like this will help educate employers on their responsibilities to respect workers’ religious needs.”

Here’s a refresher from the EEOC on the do’s and dont’s of religious discrimination and accommodation.

Steel Company Coughs Up $150K to Settle EEOC Title VII Suit Filed on Nazarite Applicant’s Behalf

If only an employer hadn’t insisted that a job applicant remove a lock of hair for drug testing–although his religion forbade him from doing so–it might have avoided entanglement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Instead, the company is out $150,000 to make the ensuing lawsuit go away.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged U.S. Steel Tubular Products, Inc. (USSTP), a subsidiary of United States Steel Corporation, with violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by revoking a worker’s job offer because of his religion and in retaliation for insisting that his religious practices be accommodated.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Stephen Fasuyi applied for a utility technician position in November 2011 at a facility in Houston and received an oral employment offer. The job offer was contingent upon his successful completion of a pre-employment drug test. Fasuyi belongs to the Nazirite sect of the Hebrew Israelite faith, and he sincerely believes that the Old Testament forbids him from cutting hair from his scalp. During a hair follicle drug test the same day he received a job offer, he declined to have a lock of his hair cut starting at the scalp, but he offered alternatives, such as pulling hair from his beard, which seemed consistent with the drug test protocol. Fasuyi nevertheless was instructed to go home without the examination being completed, and was denied the opportunity to re-test on a different date.

Fasuyi subsequently applied for other vacancies at USSTP, including another utility technician position for which he initially was scheduled for an interview, only to have the interview later canceled by the company.

The EEOC contended that Fasuyi’s religious beliefs should have been accommodated during the pre-employment testing, and that USSTP ultimately denied him employment because of his religion and in retaliation for his opposing what he believed to be religious discrimination.

Under the terms of a two-year consent decree settling the case, USSTP will pay $150,000 in monetary relief and has agreed to other relief in resolving this matter.

“We are pleased to have reached what we believe to be a fair resolution, and are confident that USSTP is committed to considering accommodation requests from job applicants of faith,” said EEOC Houston District Regional Attorney Rudy Sustaita.

The EEOC announced the settlement on April 10.

Employer Out $110K in Settlement With EEOC Over Mistreatment of Muslim Afghan Woman

An employer that allegedly discriminated against a Muslim Afghan female employee and then retaliated against her when she complained agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a Title VII lawsuit brought on her behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the commission announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC. KASCO, LLC, a St. Louis company which manufactures and sells butcher supplies and meat processing equipment, discriminated Latifa Sidiqi, because of her adherence to Islam and her Afghan descent, and then firing her for complaining about it. When Sidiqi was written up for a job performance issue–wan admonition she thought unjustified–during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, she submitted a written rebuttal to human resources, pursuant to company policy. In that rebuttal, she wrote that the write-up had “everything to do with [her] coming from a Muslim background.”

Within three weeks of this rebuttal, Sidiqi was terminated for allegedly “falsifying time records.” Sidiqi claimed, and the EEOC agreed, that this “time record” issue was pretextual, since other employees used “flex time” in the same manner Sidiqi did, but only she was fired for it.

“Employers need to ensure that their policies and practices, like the federal laws they must follow, not only protect employees from discrimination, but also protect them against retaliation when they complain,” said James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office.

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.

Suit Settled Against Hospital That Wouldn’t Accommodate Employees Objecting to Flu Shot

An employer can require as a condition of employment that employees get a flu shot. But like any other condition of employment, this one is subject to the duty of reasonable accommodation when an employee objects on religious grounds to the requirement.

That’s the upshot of an announcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it settled a Title VII religious discrimination lawsuit it brought against Saint Vincent Health Center located in Erie, Pa.

According to the EEOC, in October 2013, the Health Center) implemented a mandatory seasonal flu vaccination requirement for its employees unless they were granted an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Under the policy, employees who received an exemption were required to wear a face mask while having patient contact during flu season in lieu of receiving the vaccination. Employees who refused the vaccine but were not granted an exemption by the Health Center were fired, according to EEOC’s lawsuit.

From October 2013 to January 2014, EEOC alleged, the six employees identified in its complaint requested religious exemptions from the Health Center’s flu vaccination requirement based on sincerely held religious beliefs, and the Health Center denied their requests. When the employees continued to refuse the vaccine based on their religious beliefs, the Health Center fired them.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, during this same period, the Health Center granted fourteen (14) vaccination exemption requests based on medical reasons while denying all religion-based exemption requests.

The six employees will share in a $300,000 monetary award under the settlement.

The settlement also comes with a whole lot of stipulations:

(1) if the Health Center chooses to require employee influenza vaccination as a condition of employment, it must grant exemptions from that requirement to all employees with sincerely held religious beliefs who request exemption from the vaccination on religious grounds unless such exemption poses an undue hardship on the Health Center’s operations;

(2) it t must also notify employees of their right to request religious exemption and establish appropriate procedures for considering any such accommodation requests.

(3) when considering requests for religious accommodation, the Health Center must adhere to the definition of “religion” established by Title VII and controlling federal court decisions, a definition that forbids employers from rejecting accommodation requests based on their disagreement with an employee’s belief; their opinion that the belief is unfounded, illogical, or inconsistent in some way; or their conclusion that an employee’s belief is not an official tenet or endorsed teaching of any particular religion or denomination.

(4) the Health Center must provide training regarding Title VII reasonable accommodation to its key personnel and that it maintain reasonable accommodation policies and accommodation request procedures that reflect Title VII requirements.