Case Example Religious Discrimination - Failure to Accommodate Religion

Both state and federal law prohibit discrimination against an employee on the basis of their religion. Employees should not be treated differently and worse because of their beliefs. The laws also require employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs unless the requested accommodation would cause an undue burden for the employer. Examples of accommodations for religious beliefs and practices include accommodating an employee’s religious clothing, providing an employee with leave for religious observances, and providing employees with time and a place to pray. The Maine Employee Rights Group represents employees in cases involving discrimination on the basis of religion and failure to accommodate religious beliefs.

Our client was employed in a chain retail store. She performed her job well and had been employed in the same position for years. Our client was a devout Christian who followed the teachings and proscriptions of her particular denomination. Her church prohibited working on Sundays. She informed her manager of her religious belief and asked for Sundays off as an accommodation. Her manager granted her request and she was not scheduled for Sundays. When a new manager took over her store the manager began to schedule our client for work on Sundays. Our client explained to the new manager that her religion prohibited her from working on Sundays. The manager refused to change the schedule and advised the client that she could either work on Sundays like everyone else or no longer work for the employer.

We filed a Charge of Discrimination for our client with the Maine Human Rights Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then filed the case in court alleging violations of the Maine Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The employer denied that it had violated religious discrimination laws and argued that it was too much of a hardship to permit our client to take Sundays off. In discovery, Maine Employee Rights Group attorneys requested and obtained documents from the employer relating to scheduling and requests for days off. The employer opposed the discovery requests and we filed a conference with the court and the court issued an order to the employer to produce the requested documents. Through discovery we obtained evidence that the employer routinely provided employees with Saturdays and Sundays off for non-religious reasons. In addition, our investigator took steps to identify and contact employees and former employees with information relevant to the case. We obtained a statement from the client’s former supervisor who testified that it was no problem to give the client Sundays off as well as statements from coworkers who testified that it did not create any scheduling difficulties to give our client Sundays off. Following the discovery phase of the case, the parties entered into negotiations and the employer offered monetary and non-monetary terms that were acceptable to our client.

If you or someone that you know had been discriminated against on the basis of their religion or because of their need for a religious accommodation contact us today at 207.874.0905.

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