Over the last few months, the EEOC has settled various religious discrimination lawsuits against employers across the U.S., including California.
In New Jersey, UPS agreed to pay $70,000 to settle a religious discrimination suit by an employee who was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. UPS notified the employee of a schedule change requiring him to work a particular shift that would prevent him from transporting members of his congregation to an annual Jehovah’s Witness event. UPS denied his request to work a different shift and refused to provide an alternative accommodation. Although UPS argued that it did not believe that a request to transport others to a religious event was a request for a religious accommodation, it agreed to settle the matter.
KFC will pay $40,000 to a female Pentecostal employee who was fired for refusing to wear pants. Previous KFC restaurants had accommodated her religious belief that women should not wear pants. However, when the North Carolina KFC she worked at was acquired, her new employer required that she wear pants as part of its dress code policy and fired her when she refused.
Finally, a McDonald’s in Fresno, California agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a claim by a Muslim employee who was allegedly constructively discharged for growing a beard for religious reasons. The EEOC’s Fresno office commented: “Workers have the right to request an accommodation which would allow them to work while still practicing their religious beliefs.”
These cases all serve as reminders that employers must balance requests for religious accommodations carefully against their own business needs and only refuse such requests when they create a true undue hardship.