- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has alleged that a Miami hotel unlawfully fired a room attendant over her religious beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist.
- Noble House Solé, LLC violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it terminated the worker's employment because she refused to work on Saturday, her Sabbath Day, EEOC said in its Feb. 24 announcement. The hotel accommodated the woman's beliefs for 10 months without issue. But a new director of housekeeping arrived and scheduled her to work a Saturday shift. When the woman said she could not work on her Sabbath, the worker allegedly was told: "If you are unable to work on Saturdays, your place is not here." Solé House fired the employee after she failed to report to work on the first Saturday that she was scheduled.
- The hotel did not respond to an emailed request for comment by press time.
Title VII prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant's or employee's sincerely held religious beliefs unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship.
"Employees should not have to choose between their religious beliefs and their livelihood," EEOC regional attorney Robert Weisberg said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "If an employer can accommodate an employee's request not to work on the Sabbath without undue hardship, it should do so."
"When there is a conflict between an employee's religious beliefs and work rules, the law requires employers to look for workable solutions," EEOC Miami District Office Acting District Director Bradley A. Anderson added.
Flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions and job reassignments are common religious accommodations. However, employees are not entitled to the accommodation they prefer. For example, a truck driver who asked for Sundays off was not entitled to his accommodation of choice, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The employer's offer of reassignment to a route that didn't require Sunday work was a reasonable accommodation to the worker's request, the court said, even though it paid less.
In a similar case, the 10th Circuit ruled that a worker was given a reasonable accommodation, although not the one he wanted, when he was allowed to skip weekend work after he asked that his mandatory overtime be switched from Saturday to Sunday to accommodate his religious beliefs. The employee sued his employer because he was unhappy about the loss of income that resulted from the lack of available overtime on Sundays.
While employers don't have to grant an employee's preferred accommodation, they are expected to engage in an interactive, good-faith process to look for an accommodation. HR can make sure managers are trained to handle requests and to listen for clues that suggest a need for accommodation even if there is no formal request. Compliance training for managers is also a good idea, experts say.