Employer Settles For $94,541 – Refused Job To Applicant Who Asked To Start The Day After Rosh Hashanah

“Hard to believe but true.”

I wrote that almost a year ago when the EEOC sued a Maryland logistics/delivery company because it refused to hire an applicant for a dispatcher/customer service position who could not work on Rosh Hashanah due to his religious beliefs.

Why did it the company do that?

I don’t know – but it just cost the company $94,541 in settling the case.

The applicant was willing to start the day after Rosh Hashanah, but a company VP told him, according to the EEOC, that he had to report to work on Rosh Hashanah because “the company only honored federal holidays, and that if he gave [him] a religious accommodation, he would have to extend them to other employees.”

When he reported to work the following day, he was sent home.

An EEOC Regional Attorney said at the time of filing the suit that “The freedom to exercise one’s religious beliefs is one of our nation’s fundamental values. Mr. McCloud simply asked if he could start work one day later than scheduled so he could observe Rosh Hashanah, one of the Jewish High Holy Days. A one-day postponement of a start date is not an undue hardship.”

One day later — why would an employer do that?  Hard to fathom.

I have noted before that religious discrimination was formerly a backwater of employment discrimination law but has shot to the forefront in recent years.  Indeed, as we have seen in this blog “employers refusing time off for religious observances has become an increasingly common issue affecting the workforce.”

The EEOC sued a Georgia automotive parts manufacturer and supplier for alleged religious discrimination for firing an employee who, because of her religious beliefs, refused to work mandatory overtime hours on designated Saturdays.  Initially she was excused from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday, until a new supervisor refused to accommodate her, and she was fired.

And in early 2017 I reported on a South Carolina company which had hired a Hebrew Pentecostal truck driver who told them that he could not, for religious reasons, work on the Sabbath, but it eventually fired him for refusing to do so.  The EEOC sued the company.

Takeaway:

Unless it creates an undue burden, an employee’s religious practices and beliefs must be accommodated by an employer.  And an employer must engage the employee in the famous “interactive process” to determine if there exists an accommodation that is not unduly burdensome.

Moreover, and this is important: most religious accommodations are not unduly costly!  Which is why I am always a little stunned that employers fail to accommodate a religious belief when it is so easy to do.

And a one-day postponement of a start date does not appear to be an undue hardship.

 

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Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]