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What Can I Do If My Employer Will Not Give Me A Religious Accommodation? I Need A Lawyer!

| Sep 10, 2015 | Employment Discrimination, Religious Discrimination, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio Religious Discrimination Attorney Answer: Do I have a claim for religious employment discrimination? How do I get a religious accommodation at work? Can an employer make an employee come into work if doing so would violate a religious belief?  

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Baseball is America’s past time, and the team that lives and plays in the heart of America, the Washington Nationals, has come under some fire recently in a lawsuit filed by three former ballpark ushers claiming that the Nationals discriminated against them based on their religion as 7th Day Adventists.

As a backdrop, all employees are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, in Ohio under R.C. § 4112.02(A), from being discriminated against or retaliated against by their employers on the basis of their religion. Specifically, Title VII prohibits religious discrimination in hiring, promotion, wrongful discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment. (Title VII provides the same protections for race/color, gender/sex, or national origin). While you may find it hard to believe that employment discrimination based on religion still occurs in Ohio and around the country, our employment discrimination attorneys have regularly blogged about these occurrences religious discrimination by bosses, managers and supervisors. (See Can I Sue My Employer For Not Accommodating My Religious Dress? I Need A Lawyer!; Can I Sue if I Was Fired Because Of My Religion? I Need The Best Lawyer Reply!; Can I Sue A Religious Employer For Employment Discrimination? I Need A Lawyer!; and Can My Boss Fire Me If She Thinks I’m A Certain Religion But I’m Not? I Need An Employment Lawyer!)

Today, our employment discrimination lawyers bring you another case of religious discrimination. In Green v. Washington Nationals, a federal lawsuit filed in April, 2015 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the three plaintiffs, who are 7th Day Adventists, a Protestant Christian denomination, worked as Guest Services Representatives for the Nationals during the 2013 season. According to the complaint, because the plaintiffs are 7th Day Adventists, they are not permitted to work on their Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) based on their religious beliefs. The complaint states that in 2013 the Nationals accommodated the three plaintiffs and did not make them work night games on Friday or day games on Saturday; however, the suit then alleges that the Nationals terminated the three plaintiffs because the organization was no longer willing to accommodate the plaintiffs.

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The lawsuit specifically alleges that in 2013, the Nationals adopted a policy requiring plaintiffs and all other Guest Service Representatives to work 80 percent of the Nationals’ 81 home games, or 65 games. In 2013, however, only 57 home games were Sabbath-free. During the season, the Nationals seemingly did accommodate the plaintiffs by not making them work any Sabbath-conflict games, which meant that the plaintiffs did not meet the 80 percent policy based on their religious accommodation. However, following the season, the Nationals informed the plaintiffs that they were being terminated “because they had not satisfied the 80 percent rule.” The plaintiffs then reminded the Nationals of their need for an accommodation and asked the organization to reinstate them; however, no consideration was given, according to the averments in the complaint.

As part of the lawsuit, the three plaintiffs are seeking reinstatement during the 2015 season and beyond.

Under Title VII, employers have to provide religious accommodations to employees so long as the accommodation does not interfere with a central function of the job and does not create an undue hardship. Typical religious accommodations that employers are expect to make include swapping an employee’s religious conflicting task or schedule with another worker.

With regard to central function, for example, a Muslim woman could not request to wear a burqa as an accommodation to be a bathing suit model. But, a Jehovah’s Witness employee who objected on religious grounds to raising a flag should be given the accommodation of having that limited task performed by a coworker. As for the “undue cost” criteria, the employer must show that there is more than a modest cost. The employer cannot avoid providing a religious accommodation just because there is some cost, which is to be expected. The religious discrimination laws deal with what accommodations are realistic. If someone demands as an accommodation that a company completely stop shipping alcohol, that would be an undue hardship for an employer. But if it’s possible to accommodate the person by just not giving him the relatively rare alcohol-shipping orders, then that might well not be an undue hardship.

These exact issues were addressed in Haring v. Blumenthal, which was also decided by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In Haring, the employee worked for the Internal Revenue Service and applied for promotion to Tax Law Specialist but was denied for the promotion because, as a Catholic, he had a religious belief that precluded him from reviewing certain tax exempt organizations that provided abortion services. The IRS would not accommodate the employee by shifting that task to another employee. The court held:

Under the Act, employers must make “reasonable accommodation” to the religious beliefs of their employees—a relative term which depends upon the facts and circumstances. Redmond v. GAF Corp., 574 F.2d 897 (7th Cir. 1978). Unless the statutory mandate is to be rendered meaningless, it must be held to provide that until facts or circumstances arise from which it may be concluded that there can no longer be an accommodation without undue hardship, the employee’s religious practices are required to be tolerated. …

There is, moreover, no reason to believe either that this plaintiff’s zone of objectionable policies will grow significantly or that his stand will have a mushroom effect on other IRS reviewers. Irrespective of how plaintiff’s objections to IRS policies are phrased, it appears, on this record at least, that they will still constitute only a small segment of his workload. Most IRS exemption decisions, it may safely be assumed, are in the more pedestrian realms of the financial world, and even when they involve other public policy issues, they are not likely very often to touch upon plaintiff’s category of objectionable policies, however much those policies may have been inflated most recently to give them their broadest and most diffuse expression. Further—unlike, for example, the typical Saturday workday problem which has been before the courts in so many different guises—there is little real incentive for others to emulate this plaintiff. …

 The government raises a fundamental question of principle. It argues that what is at stake here is the integrity of the Internal Revenue Service and, indeed, of the Nation’s uniform tax system itself. Citizens are entitled to have confidence in that Service and that system, and this confidence, so it is claimed, would be jeopardized if plaintiff’s insistence on his interpretation of law and public policy were allowed to prevail. The Service also argues in this connection that different standards must be applied to judicial or quasi-judicial officers than to employees who carry out mere ministerial functions, and that any deviation by such an officer from duly promulgated law and policy must be regarded as per se inflicting an undue hardship on the government which employs him.

Those arguments would be extremely persuasive, even conclusive, if plaintiff were taking the position that he would deny tax exemptions to organizations to whose policies he objects. Indeed it may be that, at one time in the course of the administrative proceedings, he took that very position. But that is not the posture of this case now. Plaintiff does not assert that he will tailor his decisions to his beliefs but merely that, when there is a conflict between his beliefs and what the law would require him to decide, he will in effect disqualify himself and request that the matter be reassigned to another reviewer.

Turning back to the Green case, the Washington Nationals will have at least significant problem in my mind. They already provided the requested accommodation in years past. If the employer was able to previously provide the religious accommodation, there will be a strong presumption that it did not cause them an undue hardship to do so. Employers cannot strip religious accommodations simply in an attempt to cut some costs.

If you feel that you are being discriminated or harassed based on your religion or religious beliefs or that you were wrongfully terminated because of you are Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu or any other religion, the best course of action you can take is to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At The Spitz Law Firm, you will meet with a religious discrimination attorney, who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this religious discrimination blog and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I …”, “What should I do …,” “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Jewish/Muslim/Mormon/Hindu)?” or “I was fired for my religious beliefs. The answer to “What can I do?”, is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.