In the midst of the Great Resignation, you would think employers would put forth the extra effort to accommodate employees (and to comply with the law). Yet, last week, the EEOC announced a settlement in a religious discrimination case in which the employer, an Amazon delivery partner, terminated an employee after he refused to work on a Sunday — he went to church instead. In fact, when he was hired, the employee told the employer he could not work on Sundays because he attended church on Sundays. The employer asked that the employee work on Saturdays and he agreed. The employer not only forgot its agreement but also the law.
Now the employer owes the employee $50,000. Moreover, as part of the Final Judgment and Consent Decree approved by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the employer agreed to: accommodate the religious beliefs of its applicants and employees by, among other things, prohibiting work on Sundays (unless doing so would cause undue hardship); create and disseminate to its employees an anti-religious discrimination policy; provide religious discrimination training, through an independent organization, to its managers and supervisors; appoint a “Religious Accommodations Decision maker” to handle employees’ requests for religious accommodations; and for the 2.5 year duration of the Consent Decree, post a public notice about the EEOC’s complaint and settlement and report to the EEOC every six months regarding the employer’s compliance with the Consent Decree (which includes detailed instructions on how the employer is to comply with the terms of the agreement). That’s a big price to pay for an easily avoidable issue.
The law is very clear and the employer quickly could have discovered, if it did not already know, that it had an obligation to accommodate the employee. Here’s what the EEOC says on its website:
“The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion. Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.”
At a time when employee retention is especially critical, it may be a good idea to make sure your managers are up to speed on issues such as these. Refresher training is always a good idea, especially before the EEOC forces you to do it.