Senior Living Properties, LLC has settled a religious discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after an administrator refused to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs that restricted her from working on Sundays, telling her that “God would excuse her.”
The EEOC announced on Monday that the Texas-based assisted living community operator will pay $42,500 as part of the settlement. The company must also amend its written anti-discrimination policy to include language regarding Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting religious discrimination and requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ sincerely-held religious beliefs—including beliefs necessitating not working on a particular day or days of the week—as long as it doesn’t pose an “undue hardship.”
The dietary services manager at Senior Living Properties’ Sweetwater Healthcare Center in Sweetwater, Tex., sought to be excused from working on Sundays based on religious observances consistent with her Christian faith, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit. During most of the three years she worked at the company, the employee was not required to work on Sundays and Senior Living Properties respected this work schedule.
That changed when a new administrator was hired at the community, according to the EEOC, at which point the new administrator told the dietary services manager “in no uncertain terms” that she would have to be available to work on Sundays.
The administrator allegedly told her that “God would excuse her from this religious restriction because she worked in the health care field,” said the EEOC. The lawsuit alleged that the new administrator dismissed the employee’s requests to not work on Sundays and told her if she wouldn’t comply, “there’s the door.”
“Requiring an employee to choose between her faith and a job to which she is dedicated is not only ill-advised management, but illegal,” said Devika Seth, senior trial attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, in a statement about the case. “We hope this settlement presents an example of how matters involving religious beliefs can be better addressed in the workplace.”
As part of the settlement agreement, Senior Living Properties must also conduct annual training for three years on the law against religious discrimination in the workplace; employees’ rights to have their religious beliefs accommodated in the workplace; the types of accommodations that may be granted to employees due to their religious beliefs; and the proper procedure for investigating complaints.
“An employee’s religious beliefs should never be dismissively disregarded,” noted Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the Dallas District Office. “Under the law, it is important for an employer to examine whether a conflict between a work requirement and the faith-based practice of an individual can be resolved.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace