EEOC Brings Suit Against Baca Raton Facility for Religious Discrimination

A Baca Raton nursing and rehabilitation facility is being charged by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with violating federal law after it fired an employer over Sabbath-keeping issues.

The EEOC recently filed a lawsuit, EEOC v. Menorah House, case no. 9:11-cv-80825, against Boca Group LLC, doing business as Menorah House, after it failed to provide religious accommodations for Philomene Augustin, and fired her for her religious beliefs.

Augustin, a Seventh-Day Adventist whose Sabbath goes from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, was a certified nursing assistant at Menorah house prior to her termination.

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The facility had previously accommodated Augustins’ beliefs for more than 10 years by not requiring her to work on her Sabbath, says the Commission, until a change in management policy brought about a new rule which required all employees to work on Saturdays, without exceptions for religious beliefs.

This rule violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, says the EEOC, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires “reasonable accommodations” of employers for employees’ “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“The law seeks to strike a balance  between reasonably accommodating religious beliefs and respecting legitimate  business concerns,” said Robert E. Weisberg, the EEOC’s Regional Attorney for Miami. “Unfortunately, in this case the employer  refused its legal obligation to pursue a solution that’s fair for all  concerned.”

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An attempt to reach a pre-litigation settlement was unsuccessful and prompted the EEOC suit, which is asking the court to grant a permanent injunction directing Menorah House to no longer discriminate against employees because of religious belief, and requiring reasonable accommodations of religious beliefs. Additionally, the EEOC suit asks the court that Augustin be reinstated to Menorah House, along with back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.

Written by Alyssa Gerace