EEOC Sues AscensionPoint Recovery Services for Religious Discrimination

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Debt Collector Fired Christian Employee After He Refused to Be Fingerprinted Due to His Religious Beliefs, Federal Agency Charges

MINNEAPOLIS -- AscensionPoint Recovery Services, LLC (APRS), a Minnesota-based estate and probate debt recovery company that manages decedent debt recovery for creditors, violated federal law when it fired a Christian employee instead of accommodating his request not to be fingerprinted due to his religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC’s pre-suit investigation revealed that APRS had requested that its employees be finger-printed as a result of a background check requirement of one of its clients. Shortly after the Christian employee informed APRS that having his fingerprints captured was contrary to his religious practices, APRS fired him at their St. Louis Park, Minn., office. APRS did so without asking the client whether an exemption was available as a religious accommodation, and despite the fact that alternatives to fingerprinting are available.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s religious practice unless it would pose an undue hardship.

The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. AscensionPoint Recovery Services, LLC, Civil Action No. 0:21-cv-01428, was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Eric C. Tostrud. The government’s litigation effort will be led by EEOC Trial Attorneys Adrienne Kaufman and Kelly Bunch and supervised by EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.

“An employee should not have to choose between his faith and his livelihood,” said Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC’s regional attorney in the Chicago District Office. “The EEOC is committed to enforcing the rights of religious employees, and Title VII requires that an employer attempt to find a workable solution when an employee’s sincerely held religious observance or practice conflicts with a work requirement.”

Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman added, “Federal law is clear: Employers cannot refuse to provide a religious accommodation unless it presents an undue hardship. Despite this obligation, APRS fired this employee the same day of his accommodation request — failing to even explore readily available solutions. When a company violates federal anti-discrimination laws this way, the EEOC will step in.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office which is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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