Not All Religious Restrictions Are Reasonable
Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) June 5, 2013 – Employers may make reasonable accommodations for workers with religious restrictions, unless it causes workplace issues.
Religion is an important issue to many Americans. Important enough to inform their employer if they follow the teachings of a certain faith that may interfere with them performing the job they were hired to do. This case outlines that although employers are bound to make realistic adjustments for religious beliefs, there is a line in the sand when it comes to how a person’s faith interferes with a company’s ability to get a job done.
“EEOC v. Thompson Contracting, No. 11-1897, 4th Cir., 2012 involves a trucker working for a construction company that builds roads for various state transportation activities. The work gets done when the weather is good. When it is raining or storming, they often need to book weekend hours to make up for lost time,” outlined Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.
The construction company in this case does own their own fleet of trucks and drivers. However, if someone misses work, they need to hire independent operators at a higher cost. The plaintiff trucker follows the Hebrew Israelite faith, which forbids the faithful to do any work from sunup to sundown on Saturdays. He did inform his supervisor of that when he was hired.
“The gentleman was not on the job very long before he was called to work on a Saturday. He refused, according to his religious beliefs. It was not a major issue, as the job was not a large one and the company did not need to hire anyone else to get the work done,” Coffey explained.
About a week later, he was called to work again, but in that instance, the company had to hire out the work to someone else. The trucker was told if he missed one more Saturday, he would be terminated. He did and was fired. The truck driver went to the EEOC, who filed a religious discrimination lawsuit on his behalf, stating his employers should have hired more truckers.
“The court did not agree with the EEOC argument because every occasion the man refused to work meant the company had to pay out large sums of money to replace him. They ruled for the defendant. The take away in this case is clearly that even though an employer must make reasonable accommodations for worker’s beliefs, they are not obligated to do so if it means they have to virtually retool their whole workforce, go out and purchase extra equipment or change the way they conduct their business. That is an undue hardship for the company,” pointed out Coffey.
Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com
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Chicago, IL 60654
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