Posts Tagged ‘religious discrimination’

N.M. Dealership Settles 3-Pronged EEOC Suit

To hear the federal government tell it, a car dealership in New Mexico was rife with animus based on its worker’s race, national origin and religion.

Now the dealership has agreed to clean up its act in settlement of a lawsuit.

Reliable Inc., doing business as Reliable Nissan, along with other entities involved in operating the Albuquerque car dealership, has agreed to settle charges of discrimination based on race, national origin, and religion, along with retaliation, that were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced last Wednesday.

The agreement follows conciliation between the EEOC and Reliable Nissan over claims that two Reliable Nissan Managers repeatedly used the “N-word” during a sales meeting, and referred to African, African-American, Native American, Muslim and Hispanic employees in a derogatory manner. Employees alleged that managers made offensive jokes about Muslim and Native American employees’ religious practices and traditions, and used racial epithets like “n—-r,” “drunken Indians,” “red.” and “redskins.” Racially offensive pictures targeted against minority employees were also posted in the workplace.

The EEOC investigated the charges and found that the racial slurs and innuendos created a hostile work environment for minority employees, and that Reliable Nissan failed to take prompt and remedial action to stop the harassment. The EEOC’s investigation further revealed that employees who complained were retaliated against.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees because of their race, national origin or religion. Title VII also protects employees who complain about discrimination from retaliation.

As part of the conciliation agreement, Reliable Nissan agreed to pay a total of $205,000 to three emp­loyees who filed discrimination charges with the EEOC and 11 other minority employees who were subjected to the hostile work environment. The company also agreed to provide annual training for two years for its emp­loyees, including managers and human resources employees. Additionally, Reliable Nissan agreed to re­view its policies and procedures to ensure that employees have a mechanism for reporting discrimination and to make certain that each complaint will be appropriately investigated.

“It is important for all employees to feel safe and free to come forward with reports of harassment,” said EEOC Albuquerque Area Director Derick Newton. “As soon as an employer becomes aware of any kind of harassment because of race, national origin, or religion, the employer must act promptly and appropriately.”

EEOC Phoenix Office District Director Elizabeth Cadle added, “It is illegal for employees to be subjected to such degrading comments and innuendos based on their race, national origin and religion. The EEOC will continue to hold employers accountable for such offensive and discriminatory conduct.”

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Employee Wanted Out From Bible Study; When Employer Said No, EEOC Stepped in and Sued

It’s OK for an employer to hold Bible study sessions, but not to insist that employees who object to attending them do so anyway.

Shepherd Healthcare, a medical practice in Lewisville, Texas, violated federal law when it fired an employee because of her repeated requests to be excused from a daily morning Bible study, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 20. The EEOC also charged that the company unlawfully fired three other employees in retaliation for their opposition to the compulsory Bible study and other employer-imposed, religious-based observances or expectations.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Shepherd Healthcare has conducted mandatory staff meetings that begin each workday with a reading or study of Biblical verses, to include a discussion of how those principles could be applied to the employees’ personal lives. Almeda Gibson had worked in the office call center of the medical practice for approximately one year. The EEOC alleges that Gibson, a follower of principles of Buddhism, asked to be excused from attending the religious portion of the compulsory meetings. Gibson’s repeated requests for accommodation were denied, and she was then fired in July 2016 just one day after renewing her request to be excused from attending Bible Study sessions.

The EEOC also alleges in its lawsuit that Shepherd Healthcare retaliated against three other employees who were fired after expressing their objections or opposition to the office’s mandatory meeting requirements for compliance with the religious expectations of the owners.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace as well as retaliation for opposing an employer’s discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Tim Shepherd MD, PA d/b/a Shepherd Healthcare, Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-02569-G), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concilia­tion process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the victims, as well as injunctive relief.

“Of course, employers and employees are not required to leave their own religious beliefs at home when they walk through the workplace door. However, the law requires that employers reasonably accom­modate requests to be excused from company-sponsored religious activities rather than firing employees who seek such accommodation,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan L. Shepard.

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.

$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.