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Failure to Accommodate Employee’s Religious Beliefs Leads to $110,000 Settlement

top.lawyers.arrive.mag.2011.jpgThe EEOC recently settled a lawsuit alleging religion discrimination with Dresser Rand, a manufacturer of custom turbines, compressors and other industrial products. Dresser Rand also has contracts with the U.S. government and the Navy. The consent decree provides for Dresser Rand to pay $110,000 as well amend its equal employment opportunity policy, which includes holding anti-discrimination training and putting up notices regarding discrimination laws.

The lawsuit alleged that Harry Davis, an employee at Dresser Rand’s location in Painted Post, New York, was not accommodated for his religious beliefs. Davis, a Jehovah’s Witness and a skilled machine tool operator worked at Dresser Rand for over 20 years. As a Jehovah Witness, his religious belief was that he did not work on any part of product that could be used as weapon of war. For many years, he refused to work on projects that involved orders from any of the Armed Services. Accordingly, these projects were reassigned to other machine operators. Davis’ supervisors were aware of his beliefs and provided him with reasonable accommodation over the years.

In 2002, Davis was asked to work on a part which was going to be used on a United States naval submarine. Just like he did in the past, Davis refused to work on it. However, this time he was cited for insubordination and then fired after he refused to accept an alternate assignment in the shipping department.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged Rand with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on religion. Title VII makes it illegal to discriminate based on religion with respect to any aspect of employment. This includes hiring, firing, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, pay, and any other term of employment.

Once an employee points out that he has a religious belief or practice that conflicts with his working terms or conditions, an employer must reasonably accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the employer’s business operations. In other words, the employer must accommodate the worker unless it would cause an undue hardship. An undue hardship could be something that is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases efficiency, or interferes with the rights of other employees. For example, if an employee’s religious beliefs prevent him from working Friday nights and as long as switching schedules with another employee doe not cause undue hardship, the employer must try to accommodate the religious belief. When the employer does make accommodations, the employee must then accept it. For example, if the employer accommodated the worker by giving him the Saturday night shift, he or she then cannot refuse because they don’t want to work on a Saturday night.

Religious claims, regarding reasonable accommodation and discrimination, have been rising in the post 9 11 era. If you feel your religious beliefs and practices are not being reasonably accommodated at your place of employment, call our Employment Discrimination Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645 to help evaluate your claim. Our attorneys have helped many people obtain reasonable accommodations while retaining their jobs.

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Resources:

Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission