EEOC Sues United Cellular for Religious Discrimination

Company  Fired Seventh Day Adventist After Refusing to Accommodate His Religious Beliefs, Federal Agency Charged

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--United Cellular,  Inc., an Alabama corporation, violated federal law by subjecting an employee to  religious discrimination by refusing to accommodate his religious belief as a practicing  Seventh Day Adventist, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)  charged in a lawsuit filed on June 27, 2013.  

According  to the EEOC's lawsuit, Charles Embry, a practicing Seventh Day Adventist, was  hired by United Cellular in July 2011 as a full-time Authorized Service Center  Technician and provided retail services to Sprint customers in the Huntsville,  Ala. area.  He explained his religious  convictions during an initial interview, advising United Cellular of the need  for the accommodation of not being scheduled for work on his Sabbath, from sundown  on Friday to sundown on Saturday. 

In the fall of 2011, United  Cellular began to schedule Embry for work on the weekends despite his request  for an accommodation.    When Embry continued to exercise his  religious faith by honoring his Sabbath, United Cellular terminated his  employment by telephone.

Such  alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,  which prohibits religious discrimination. This includes requiring an employer  to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an  employee to practice his or her religion unless doing so would cause an undue  hardship to the employer's business. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. United  Cellular, Inc., Case No. CV-13-JHE-1207-NE) in the U.S. District Court for  the Northern District of Alabama, after an investigation was completed by the  agency, and after the agency attempted to reach a pre-litigation  settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary  and other relief, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement  into the position the complaining employee previously held, and injunctive  relief.

Delner Franklin-Thomas, district  director for the EEOC's Birmingham District, said, "The law protects  employees against religious discrimination and the Commission is committed to  enforcing the full scope of Title VII's prohibition against all forms of religious  discrimination concerning all faiths and in all industries."

"Title VII requires that  employers grant reasonable requests to accommodate employees' sincerely held  religious beliefs unless doing so does would impose an undue hardship for the  employer." said C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC's  Birmingham District Office.

United Cellular is a Sprint  Preferred Retailer, providing retail services and products to Sprint customers  and acting as a liaison between customers and Sprint.  United Cellular is headquartered in Irving,  Texas and has over 100 retail locations in eleven states with approximately 598  employees.

The EEOC is responsible for  enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's  Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern  counties) and the Florida Panhandle. Further information about the EEOC  is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov .