- Walmart was not required to change its assistant manager rotation schedule for an employee who needed certain days off as a religious accommodation, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held in EEOC v. Walmart, No. 20-1419 (7th Cir. March 31, 2021).
- After receiving an offer for an assistant manager position, the plaintiff, a Seventh-Day Adventist, informed Walmart that he could not work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The store’s HR manager concluded that such an accommodation would either leave the store short-handed at some times; require it to hire another assistant manager; or require other assistant managers to cover extra weekend shifts. The employer determined these effects were too burdensome and declined his request.
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued on the individual’s behalf, and a federal district court ruled in Walmart’s favor. The agency appealed and the 7th Circuit agreed with the lower court, finding that "all of the EEOC’s other proposals also would require Walmart to bear more than a slight burden." Additionally, "because Title VII does not place the burden of accommodation on fellow workers, the district court’s judgment is affirmed," it said.
Employers have seen a number of lawsuits in recent years alleging that companies failed to accommodate individuals who are Seventh Day Adventists.
Last year, the 11th Circuit, in hearing one such suit, reached a similar conclusion to the 7th Circuit. It determined that an employer didn’t violate federal law when it decided that a schedule proposed by a nuclear power plant employee wasn’t reasonable because it would have required other workers to "bear an additional workload of an already demanding job."
Generally, Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964 requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for workers' sincerely held religious beliefs, "unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business," according to EEOC.
"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," the agency said on its website. Employees may need, for example, flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments and modifications to workplace policies or practices, according to EEOC.