Posts Tagged ‘religious discrimination’

Receptionist’s Refusal of Flu Shot Illegally Cost Her Job Under Title VII, EEOC Alleges in Lawsuit

The federal government isn’t buying a hospital’s rationale for firing an employee who objected on religious grounds to getting a flu shot.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today that a health care provider in Owosso, Mich., violated federal law when it rescinded a job offer because of the applicant’s religion and need for a religious accommodation.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Memorial Healthcare revoked its employment offer to Yvonne Bair to work as a medical transcriptionist due to her religious objection to an influenza shot or spray. The company denied the job to Bair, who would eventually be working from home, even though she offered to wear a mask, and the company had a policy authorizing the use of masks for those who could not take a vaccine.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees against discrimination based on religion, and requires employers to provide employees with reasonable accommodations to allow them to practice their sincerely held religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Case No. 2:18-cv-10523) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking an injunction to prohibit the company from engaging in this type of discrimination in the future, as well as monetary relief on the behalf of the victim.

The EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office oversees Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and parts of Ohio.

 

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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.

Security Firm Out $90K in Settlement of EEOC Religious Bias Suit Over Its Grooming Standards

Unless there’s a good reason why a security firm has to be strict about its grooming policy, it should be flexible about it or anticipate being sued.

Universal Protection Services, LP, dba Allied Universal Security Services, a nationwide private security services company, will pay $90,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Jan 23.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the security company refused to accommodate the request of a Muslim security guard who sought a modification to the company’s grooming standard. The company fired him two days after he made the request, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs so long as this does not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Universal Protection Services, LP, dba Allied Universal Security Services, Case No. 3:17-cv-02436-BEN-NLS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

As part of the settlement, in addition to paying $90,000 to the employee, Allied Universal will retain an equal employment monitor; review and revise its religious accommodation policies and practices to comply with Title VII; provide annual EEO training for employees, supervisors, and managers who are involved in the religious accommodation process; post an employee notice; and undertake record keeping and reporting to EEOC.

“The EEOC commends Allied Universal Security Services for agreeing to comprehensive injunctive remedies including in-person training and monitoring to ensure that future religious discrimination will not occur,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District, whose jurisdiction includes San Diego County. “We hope other companies take their lead in addressing religious accommodation issues.”

Christopher Green, director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “The EEOC is encouraged that Allied Universal recognizes that employees should be free to exercise their religious practices without fear of being discharged. The EEOC is committed to ensuring that reasonable religious accommodations are provided to workers who require them.”

In August 2016, Allied Barton Security Services merged with Universal Protection Services and was collectively renamed Allied Universal. According to their website, www.aus.com, they are the largest provider of security services in North America and are recognized as the premier service provider in every market that they serve.

Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

Hospital Coughs Up $89K Over Firing of Workers Who Objected on Religious Grounds to Flu Shots

It may be sound medical practice to require your workers to get flu shots, but you can’t force shots on employees who object to them on religious grounds. At least not without first trying to accommodate those objections.

Mission Hospital, Inc., a North Carolina corporation based in Asheville and the main hospital of Mission Health System, has agreed to pay $89,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Jan 12. The EEOC had charged that Mission Hospital violated federal law when it refused to accommodate and fired employees who declined flu vaccinations based on their religious beliefs.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Mission Hospital requires employees to receive a flu vaccination annually by a date certain. An employee may request an exemption to the vaccination requirement based on religious beliefs, but the hospital requires that the request be made by Sept. 1, or it is subject to being denied. The EEOC alleged that Christine Bolella, Melody Mitchell and Titus Robinson requested religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement because of their various sincerely held religious beliefs, after the Sept. 1 deadline, and their requests were denied. Mission Hospital subsequently fired all three claimants.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs as long as doing so does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Asheville Division (EEOC v. Mission Hospital, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:16-CV-00118) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to claimants Bolella, Mitchell and Robinson, Mission Hospital entered into a two-year consent decree which requires it to, among other things, revise its immunization policy to permit employees to request an exemption during the same period in which flu vaccines are to be received. Mission Hospital must also conduct annual training for supervisors and managers on Title VII and an employer’s obligations with respect to religious accommodations; post an employee notice about the lawsuit; and provide periodic reports to the EEOC concerning requests for religious exemption from the flu vaccination requirement.

“Title VII requires employers to make a real effort to provide reasonable religious accommodations to employees who notify the company that their sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with a company’s employment policy,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “As a result of this lawsuit, Mission now has practices in place to better ensure that this happens.”

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.”

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.