The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against the supermarket chain Raley’s, accusing it of discriminating against an employee based on religion. The store fired an employee after she refused to work on an evening when she normally attended church services.
The Raley’s supermarket in Chico promised an employee that she would not have to work on Wednesday nights or early in the day on Sundays. The employee was a Jehovah’s Witness and regularly attended services at those times. The store kept its promise for six months, but in 2014, the store scheduled the employee to work from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
The employee objected, stating that she had to attend worship services that evening. The supervisor told her that her request for religious accommodations did not matter on the evening before the busy Thanksgiving holiday. The employee reported for her shift at 2 p.m., but told a supervisor at 5 p.m. that she had to leave. She was immediately fired. However, at the time there were two other clerks working who could have covered the employee’s shift. Eight other cashiers were off that day who could have been called in to cover the employee’s shift.
The EEOC in the San Francisco investigated, and eventually filed a lawsuit against Raley’s. The lawsuit accused Raley’s of discriminating against the employee because of her religion, and of illegally retaliating against her by firing her for exercising her legal rights. The EEOC pointed out that the company could have accommodated the employee’s request easily by swapping her schedule. The EEOC is seeking an injunction against future religion discrimination, compensation for the employee’s financial losses and emotional distress, as well as punitive damages for the store’s malicious conduct.
As this lawsuit points out, religious discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Religious discrimination involves treating an applicant or an employee unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. Religious discrimination laws protect not only those who belong to traditional religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and other major religions, but also individuals who are not part of a standard religion but have sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs.
There are a number of ways in which religious discrimination can rear its ugly head. An employer can refuse to hire an employee because of his or her religion. An employer may refuse to promote or could fire an employee because of his or her religion. The employer may be given poor job assignments or may not get the same perks of employment as other employees.
Employers are required 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. Therefore, an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment which would allow an employee to practice his or her religion. For example, in the case involving Raley’s, a reasonable accommodation could include rescheduling the employee to another shift so that she could attend worship services.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employees should be allowed to practice their religions without interference from employers. If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your religious beliefs or practices, you should speak with an attorney. If you are in the Oakland-San Francisco area, call San Francisco employment discrimination attorney Micha Star Liberty at 510-645-1000. She works with clients throughout the area, including Tracy, Fairfield, San Jose, Sacramento, Berkeley, and the surrounding areas and she can help. Call today to learn more or to schedule your free consultation.