Healthcare Provider Fired Jehovah's Witness for Request to Skip Party, Federal Agency Charges
NEW YORK - Pediatrics 2000, which provides pediatric health services at two locations in Manhattan, unlawfully fired an employee who asked to be excused from attending a company party as a religious accommodation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The EEOC's lawsuit alleges that in December 2018, an administrative assistant requested not to attend a company party planned for later that month because, as her employer knew, it would violate her religious practices as a Jehovah's Witness to attend a holiday party or a party with entertainment, immoderate drinking or dancing. Pediatrics 2000 had allowed other employees to decline to attend the party, which was scheduled on a weekend, for reasons unrelated to religion. Yet when this employee requested to be excused as a religious accommodation, Pediatrics 2000 fired her on the spot. The company's owner and founder texted her, "[T]his is your last day of employment. [W]e can't tolerate religious privileges from anyone."
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodations. The alleged conduct by Pediatrics 2000 violates this federal law.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (U.S. EEOC v. Pediatrics 2000, Civil Action No. 19-cv-9076), after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief requiring Pediatrics 2000 to train its employees on federal law prohibiting religious discrimination, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for the harmed employee. The agency's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Liane T. Rice, supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Raechel Adams.
The EEOC's New York District director, Kevin Berry, stated, "Owners and others at the top of the corporate hierarchy are not above the requirements of Title VII, including that law's protections against religious discrimination. Businesses need to make sure that their executives are fully aware of and comply with Title VII."
The EEOC's New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.