Company Refused to Accommodate Employee’s Sabbath and Fired Her for Objecting, Federal Agency Charged
DALLAS – A Fort Worth, Texas CD and DVD manufacturing company has agreed to settle a religious discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the company refused to accommodate an employee’s Sabbath, which is from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday, and then fired her in retaliation for complaining about the failure to accommodate her religion as a member of Soldiers of the Cross of Christ Church.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 3-09CV1785-F in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas), Cinram Wireless L.L.C. refused to accommodate Eunice Arredondo’s Sabbath, although she had previously been allowed to work from Sunday through Thursday. The company changed her shifts, but still could have accommodated Arredondo, according to the EEOC. After Arredondo requested an accommodation, the employer discharged her rather than work out an alternative schedule. The EEOC asserted that the firing was in retaliation for the employee’s assertion of her right to seek an accommodation.
Employment discrimination because of religion violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
“People should not be placed in the untenable position of having to compromise their religious beliefs for a job, particularly if a schedule adjustment poses no hardship to the employer’s business operations, as had already been established in this case,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney William C. Backhaus.
The consent decree settling the suit was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Royal Ferguson on June 24, 2010. In it, the company agreed to pay $40,000 to the victim and train management and supervisory personnel on equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies and procedures, including topics regarding religious discrimination and the need to assess the need for accommodation of religious beliefs.
“It is a bit perplexing that in a country founded on tolerance and freedom of religion, we still have employers who are unwilling to meet an employee half way when it comes to certain religious observances,” said Robert Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas Office. “Keeping the Sabbath days holy is a rather well known and accepted custom, practice or belief for many different faiths, so it should come as no surprise to an employer that it might need to consider an accommodation to address that issue of availability.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.