The workplace does not prevent certain workers from exercising their religious beliefs under certain circumstances. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission recently filed a lawsuit against a Miami hotel who fired a room attendant because she refused to work on Saturdays because of her religious beliefs. This lawsuit was filed under Title VII which prohibits, among other things, religious discrimination and retaliation and requires reasonable accommodation for those beliefs.
Refusal to work Saturdays
The worker is a Seventh Day Adventist who refused to work on Saturday which is the Sabbath Day of her religion. The hotel accommodated her request for 10 months without any dispute.
A new housekeeping director, however, later took over and scheduled her to work a Saturday shift. She was allegedly told that there was no place at the hotel for her if she could not work on her Sabbath. The hotel fired her after she did not report to work on her first scheduled Saturday.
In Feb., the EEOC announced that it filed a complaint against the hotel under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII requires employers, among other things to make reasonable accommodations for an applicant’s or an employee’s sincerely held-religious belief if does not create an undue hardship.
EEOC attorneys said that employees are not required to choose between their religious beliefs and their jobs. Employers should accommodate a request to take off on the Sabbath if they can. Common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions and job reassignments.
Reasonable accommodation cases
The federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, ruled a that an employee received a reasonable accommodation even though it was not the one he wanted. He asked for the scheduling of mandatory overtime on Sunday instead of Saturday to accommodate his religious beliefs. His employer, however allowed him to skip weekend work. Although he lost income from the lack of Sunday overtime, the Court dismissed his lawsuit.
In another case, the 11th Circuit ruled that a truck driver was not entitled to his preferred accommodation. The Court ruled that the employer’s offer of a route that did not require driving on Sunday was a reasonable accommodation although it paid less.