"LORD'S EVENING MEAL" or "MEMORIAL OF CHRIST'S DEATH" MEETING. This annual 45 minute long MEETING, which most JWs refer to simply as "THE MEMORIAL", is essentially mandatory for all Jehovah's Witnesses. This MEETING is held after sundown on different dates in March or April of each year. Some deceitful Jehovah's Witness Employees have attempted to mislead their naive employers into believing that this 45 minute meeting is a religious "holi-DAY" for which the JW Employee should receive off the entire day. Since every JW congregation has invitations printed for the LEM which contain the start time, all that an employer has to do to confirm the start/stop times is request such an invitation from the JW Employee, and then give that JW Employee time off sufficient to go home to prepare to attend that evening meeting, and time to return to work if the employer needs the JW Employee to return to work.
While attendance at a LEM meeting is essentially mandatory, attendance at a specific LEM is not mandatory. In urban areas, multiple Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses often share the use of the same Kingdom Hall, which means that there may be two, three, or even four different LEM meetings held at the same Kingdom Hall after sundown on the same evening. If the JW Employee's requested time off is a hardship for the employer, an employer in an urban area might ask their JW Employee if there are other LEM meetings being held at the JW Employee's regular Kingdom Hall, and if the JW Employee would be willing to attend one of the other scheduled LEMs. If not, the employer might even ask if their JW Employee would be willing to attend a LEM at another nearby Kingdom Hall.
FYI EMPLOYERS: Publicly, the WatchTower Cult claims that its annual "Lord's Evening Meal" Meeting is patterned after "The Last Supper", and equates the LEM to "Communion" celebrations held either weekly, monthly, or quarterly by Christian denominations. Actually, the WatchTower Cult's "Lord's Evening Meal" is ceremonially more equivalent to "Black Mass" celebrations conducted by Satanists. At Christian "Communion" celebrations, 99.99% of Christian attendees PARTAKE of the wine and the bread, which symbolize the blood and body of that Christian's Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. However, just as occurs at a Satanic "Black Mass", at the WatchTower Cult's "Lord's Evening Meal", 99.99% of attendees proactively REFUSE to partake of the wine and bread that symbolize the blood and body of Jesus Christ. Specifically, at the WatchTower Cult's "Lord's Evening Meal", a cup of wine and a plate of bread is passed from person-to-person, with every single attendee at the WatchTower Cult's "Lord's Evening Meal" being REQUIRED to take that cup of wine and that plate of bread into their sole possession -- so that the attendee's REFUSAL to drink and eat is a PERSONAL REJECTION of those emblems displayed openly and publicly to all other attendees and observers.
JANIS LIVELY v. KROGERS was a 2019-21 Michigan federal employment discrimination lawsuit, which involved an age 70s female Jehovah's Witness who was employed as a cashier at a Ypsilanti, Michigan area KROGERS, from December 2016 until she resigned in March 2019. In her lawsuit, Janis Lively alleged religious discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation, and constructive discharge due to Kroger's alleged failure to give her timeoff to attend a 3-day WatchTower Convention in June 2019. Kroger presented evidence indicating that Lively's shift did not begin until 85 minutes after her meetings were scheduled to dismiss. Yet, Lively apparently did not show up for two of her shifts that weekend. Lively also complained about routine, minor disciplinings for such things as other unexcused absences and once failing to closeout her register between two customers. The USDC granted Kroger's motion for summary judgment.
FREDRIC TRAVIS v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE was a 2020-21 Missouri federal employment discrimination court case, which involved an African American Jehovah's Witness Minister named Fredric Travis. Travis worked for the USDA as a Food Inspector from November 2013 to around August 2018. During that brief period, Fredric Travis filed at least THREE EEO COMPLAINTS -- which were considered in whole or in part by this court. Given that this lawsuit was DISMISSED for failure to state a claim, only that part of the case relevant to this website will be discussed here. Persons needing a more thorough understanding of this specific case and its various elements should read the entire opinion.
On June 28, 2018, Fredric Travis's supervisor denied Travis's request for annual leave to attend a religious event the very next day, on June 29, 2018, due to insufficient staffing coverage. On June 29, 2018, Travis notified USDA before his start time that he would not be reporting to work that day even though he did not receive leave. Travis was later charged AWOL for this absence. Fredric Travis contacted an EEO counselor on July 6, 2018, alleging discrimination based on his religion and in retaliation for Travis engaging in protected EEO activity around October 2016.
On July 17, 2018, Fredric Travis informed his supervisor that he was going to have surgery soon, and he was going to request medical leave under FMLA. Travis later requested medical leave, but USDA initially denied his request on July 24, 2018, due to insufficient documentation and insufficient notice. However, on July 31, 2018, after discussing the situation with Travis and his supervisors, USDA approved Travis's request for medical leave.
In July 2019, USDA issued final agency decisions on two EEO complaints, FSIS-2017-00821 and FSIS-2018-00778, finding that the weight of the evidence indicated that discrimination did not occur with respect to the issues in those two complaints.
Travis filed this federal lawsuit on August 18, 2020. In his Complaint, Travis alleged that USDA discriminated against him based on his race, color, religion, and disability. Plaintiff alleged that the discriminatory conduct included: (1) ending his employment, (2) failing to promote him, (3) subjecting him to unequal terms and conditions in his employment, (4) retaliation, (5) harassment and hostile work environment, and (6) "degredation of name and character". In February 2021, the USDC DISMISSED this lawsuit in its entireity for its failure to include sufficient factual material to state a legal claim.
TONNEISHIA BRADSHAW v. PRINCESS CRUISES was a 2019-20 California state employment discrimination lawsuit filed by an African-American Jehovah's Witness female named Tonneishia Bradshaw, age 26, of Lancaster, California. Allegedly, AFTER being hired in November 2018, Bradshaw informed her new employer that she required time off every Sunday and Tuesday in order to attend religious services. Bradshaw allegedly made repeated attempts to gain the required time off with multiple different managers and supervisors, but was unsuccessful. Bradshaw quit in January 2019, and thereafter filed this federal lawsuit. In 2020, this state court action was dropped -- possibly so it can proceed in the proper federal forums.
JASON SMALL v. MEMPHIS LIGHT GAS AND WATER was a 2017-20 Tennessee federal employment discrimination lawsuit in which the Jehovah's Witness Employee not only was alleging that his employer had failed to accommodate WatchTower meetings on Sundays and Wednesdays, but the JW Employee possibly was also wanting scheduled time off on Saturdays so that he could perform voluntary door-knocking.
Jason Small was employed by MLGW circa 1998. In 2013, while working as an electrician, Small was injured on the job, and was granted permanent disability. Small's injuries healed such that he could continue his employment at MLGW. However, MLGW determined that Small could only perform the duties of a dispatcher, while Small alleged that the dispatcher position's work schedule conflicted with the time off which he needed to be a Jehovah's Witness. Smith alleged that MLGW was legally obligated to provide a different position which accommodated his religious needs.
In 2016, Jason Small filed a complaint with the EEOC, but the EEOC dismissed Small's complaint, instead issuing to Small a Right-To-Sue letter. Small filed this lawsuit in Febuary 2017 alleging that MLGW had violated both federal civil rights law and federal disability law. The USDC rejected Small's claims as well as his motion to enforce an alleged settlement agreement. On de novo review, the USCA affirmed in March 2020.
Jason Small failed to adequately challenge MLGW's position that Small's requested "accommodation" would have imposed an "undue hardship" on it by impeding MLGW's operations, burdening non-JW employees, and violating MLGW's union-required senority system for shift assignments. Additionally, MLGW eventually had offered to allow Small to swap his shift with another employee for periods of a quarter year.
EEOC v. PEDIATRICS 2000 was a 2019-20 New York federal lawsuit filed by EEOC on behalf of a 23 year-old female African-American Jehovah's Witness named Shekinah Baez, who was employed as an administrative assistant at one of the health care provider's two Manhattan locations. According to the EEOC, Pediatrics 2000 was aware that Baez was a Jehovah's Witness when she was hired and initially accommodated her request not to work on Wednesdays due to her religious meeting on that day. But then the company placed her on probation for missing work on Wednesdays.
EEOC alleged that early in December 2018 that employer actually told Baez to begin planning a company party to be held on a weekend later that month. Despite allegedly being told that such would not be a "holiday party", it gradually became obvious to Baez that the party included all the trappings of such an event, including planned dancing, drinking, etc. EEOC alleges that owner had long referred to Baez's religion as a "cult", and he was well aware that Baez would not attend a "holiday party". Shekinah Baez requested that she be allowed to skip the party, but was fired.
In June 2020, the U.S. District Court entered a four-year consent decree to resolve the case. The decree gives $68,000 in lost wages and other damages for Shekinah Baez, and grants injunctive relief, including: the creation of anti-discrimination policies and procedures that commit Pediatrics 2000 to provide equal opportunity in all aspects of employment, including religious beliefs; the appointment of equal employment opportunity coordinators to investigate and resolve discrimination complaints; training for both management and employees about their rights and obligations under Title VII; an employment reference for the employee; and periodic reporting to the EEOC.
SHERRY D. HORSEY v. ADT SECURITY SERVICES was a 2017-2020 New York federal employment discrimination court case in which a female Jehovah's Witness named Sherry Horsey, age 57, of Syracuse, New York, alleged that ADT failed to accomodate her need to attend religious services on Thursday evenings and Sundays, and that she was subjected to bullying, harassment, and retaliation thereafter. Sherry Horsey was hired at ADT's national call center in Rochester, New York, in January 2016. Horsey resigned in May 2016 after relocating to Syracuse, New York. Horsey was rehired in June 2016 after moving back to Rochester. Horsey took medical leave in December 2016, and resigned in April 2017. Horsey filed complaints with the EEOC, as well as the New York State Division of Human Rights. EEOC dismissed Horsey's complaint, issuing a Right-To-Sue Letter. The USDC summarily dismissed this lawsuit in its entirety in February 2020.
QUENTON L. NUNN v. CITY OF HUNSTVILLE ALABAMA was a 2014-18 Alabama federal court case which is an easily locatable online interim decision which may be highly informatve for employers and attorneys alike. While this USDC decision spends lots of time detailing "the law" in such matters, "facts" not mentioned in this decision possibly may be even more enlightening for those willing to dig into such.
Quenton Nunn was a 50s African-American Jehovah's Witness male who volunteered as an "elder" at ONE of multiple "Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses" located in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Nunn was fired from his regular job as a bus driver after he took off from work one or more days without permission -- supposedly to attend one of multiple duplicate WatchTower Regional Conventions that were held in Huntsville during the Summer of 2014.
Those duplicate WatchTower Regional Conventions were held for three days -- Fridays through Sunday. Quenton Nunn's congregation was only "invited" to attend one of those conventions. In Quenton Nunn's case, during both 2013 and 2014, Nunn requested days off during two different duplicate Regional Conventions, as well as requested time off for a Thursday preceding and a Monday following one of those duplicate Regional Conventions.
In this decision, the USDC stated, "As an elder, Mr. Nunn has administrative responsibilities that require, for example, that he work as an attendant at district conventions." Circumstances may have changed since this Editor was an active JW, or my memory may be failing me, but my recollection is that the position of "convention attendant" is "voluntary", just as the position in the congregation as an "elder" is voluntary. While many if not most elders jump at the opportunity to volunteer for these high profile, "prestigious" convention positions, not all elders do so, and neither are they so "required". This was true for most low-level positions at the Regional Convention, not just "attendants". No local JW, including Nunn, has a formal relationship with the entity holding the Convention -- CCJW. Any work performed by local JWs before-during-after would be "voluntary".
Now, Quenton Nunn may have been operating under different circumstances than the typical JW Elder, but if so, there is no indication of such mentioned in the decision other than the fact that there were 5-7 coworker bus drivers who also were Jehovah's Witnesses, and who did not ask for as many or the same days off as did Nunn.
Outsiders should understand that even attendance by ordinary JWs as a mere "delegate" at a summer Regional Convention conducted by the "Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses" is "voluntary". Congregation members are encouraged to attend the specific convention to which their congregation is invited by the CCJW, due to planning purposes, but if circumstances prohibit such (such as time off work is unavailable), JWs are encouraged to attend an alternative convention. There are no sanctions for ordinary JWs for failing to attend the specific convention to which their congregation was invited, nor even for failing to attend a convention at any location.
"Elders" admittedly are a different story. JW Elders are "very encouraged" to attend the Regional Convention to which their congregation is invited. However, over the years, this Editor heard of several elders who attended other conventions due to job and other circumstances. Some such elders simply attended a Convention where an exotic vacation had been planned. Typically, the only time an elder might suffer sanctions would be if he failed to attend any Regional Convention.
Done in a reasonable manner, employers asked to "accommodate" a JW Employee as did Nunn might ask their JW Employee to furnish them with printed documentation of the dates of the JW Employee's congregation's "invited" convention, as well as printed documentation that the JW Employee's presence is REQUIRED on specified dates. Remember: Don't be an arsehole doing so. Better to allow a JW Employee to take advantage of your ignorance than intentionally or unintentionally violate that JW's civil rights and hand them a winning lottery ticket.
PHILIP KEITH WOODS-JACKMAN v. GREATER ENRICHMENT PROGRAM INC was a 2016-18 North Carolina federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by former employee Philip K. Woods-Jackman, a 48 year-old male African-American Jehovah's Witness. GEP is a NFP which provides after-school services to under-served minority children at multiple sites in and around Charlotte, North Carolina. Philip Woods-Jackman was a Site Director from 2012 until January 29, 2015, when he was fired.
Woods-Jackman alleged gender discrimination, religious discrimination, and retaliation. Woods-Jackman claimed that his supervisors showed favoritism towards female employees, stating that he felt undermined, harassed, and discriminated against based on his gender. Woods-Jackman further alleged religious discrimination and retaliation when GEP scheduled mandatory parent workshops on Tuesday nights when Woods-Jackman normally attended the midweek Kingdom Hall meeting. Woods-Jackman also was denied Saturday mornings off to perform door-knocking. GEP allegedly refused to consider other scheduling options, and terminated Woods-Jackman's employment thereafter. (Unknown if plaintiff was not showing for work on Tuesday evenings and/or Saturday mornings.)
EXTREMELY INTERESTING was Defendant's evidence Exhibit 9, "List of Jehovah's Witness Meetings in Charlotte Area", which Woods-Jackman's attorney moved to be excluded. The USDC refused to exclude such. Discerning readers immediately should know why the defendant's attorney wanted this exhibit presented as evidence, and why the plaintiff's attorney wanted this exhibit excluded. Any reader not immediately understanding why the list of Charlotte Kingdom Halls and their meeting times was detrimental to the plaintiff is not prepared to challenge a JW Employee regarding meetings attendance. Read and re-read this sub-section until the light turns on. This case went to trial in January 2018, and after the plaintiff's presented their case, the defendant presented evidence that GEP was not subject to federal jurisdiction. Case dismissed.
RONALD E. JAMES v. GET FRESH PRODUCE INC. is an ongoing 2018-2020 Illinois federal employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a Chicago area African-American Jehovah's Witness named Ronald James. James is a "union" delivery truck driver, since 2007, who works Mondays-Saturdays. EEOC chose not to pursue James' allegations, instead issuing a Right-To-Sue Letter in April 2018.
Ronald James alleges that all African-American drivers are routinely mistreated by management -- being assigned the worst routes, the worst trucks, etc. A-A drivers are rudely spoken to -- when not ignored completely. Blah. Blah. Blah. The USDC has summarily dismissed both James' initial and re-alleged claims of racial discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
Ronald James further complains that employer has failed to accommodate him for requested days off to attend the WatchTower Cult's semi-annual Circuit Assembly/SAD, and interestingly, for the annual "Lord's Evening Meal", which is a 45 minute meeting held during the evening hours after sundown, and thus does not require the entire day off. (See above.) Since employer is a union workplace, employee vacation days and other days off are governed by rules set forth in the "collective bargaining agreement". James seems to be blaming employer for following the CBA's guidelines. This is the only claim not yet dismissed by the USDC. Pending.
ONDRIA HOLMES v. AMERICAN HERITAGE FEDERAL CREDIT UNION is an ongoing 2018-20 Pennsylvania federal employment discrimination lawsuit. Holmes asserts claims of religious discrimination, retaliation, and failure to accommodate under Title VII, disability discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and interference and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Ondria Holmes, a 30s African-American Jehovah's Witness female living in Philadelphia, was hired in August 2016. In 2018, Holmes began to suffer from complications related to severe and advanced tooth decay -- limiting her ability to eat and speak at times and causing her severe pain and sensitivity. Between May and July 2018, Holmes began to undergo extensive treatment which required her to take intermittent time off from work, including two weeks of leave for oral surgery. Holmes applied for and was approved FMLA leave. However, Holmes alleges that her female supervisor expressed concern and exhibited frustration due to Holmes' need to take time off.
In June 2018, during the same period when Holmes was taking time off for dental care, Holmes requested time off to attend an annual WatchTower convention -- informing Supervisor that she would be required to attend. Holmes needed to leave work early on July 5, 2018, and take a full day off on July 6, 2018. Supervisor denied Holme's request and allegedly stated that there was nothing that Holmes could show her that would change her mind. Holmes informed Supervisor that because the WatchTower convention was "extremely important" to her religion, Holmes would take that time off even if Supervisor refused to approve it. On the days of the WatchTower convention, Holmes followed the employer's proper call-out procedures -- informing management that for religious reasons, she needed to leave early on July 5, 2018 and be absent on July 6, 2018.
When Holmes returned to work the following Monday, July 9, 2018, she was called into Supervisor's office and berated for her absence. Holmes offered to provide documentation showing that she was absent for religious reasons, but Supervisor refused to accept such. On July 16, 2018, Holmes was terminated for (1) taking time off to attend the WatchTower convention and (2) "allegedly stealing time on June 29, 2018".
Holmes filed this lawsuit on October 15, 2018. In February 2019, the USDC granted employer's partial motion to dismiss with respect to Holmes' claims for punitive damages for ADA retaliation and FMLA interference and retaliation claims. The USDC denied employer's motion with respect to Holmes' FMLA interference and retaliation claims and claims for punitive damages for her Title VII claims and her ADA discrimination claim. Pending.
JAMES SCOTT, SR. v. COWLEY DISTRIBUTING, INC. is an ?ongoing? 2016-19 Missouri federal employment discrimination court case. James Scott, Sr., an African-American Jehovah's Witness, brings this suit pro se against his employer, Cowley Distributing, Inc, alleging that during the course of his employment he has been discriminated against on the basis of race and religion, subjected to a racially hostile work environment, denied promotional opportunities, and subsequently retaliated against for his complaints.
Cowley Distributing, Inc. is a wholesale distributer of magazines and books based in Jefferson City, Missouri. Cowley employs over 500 employees, and services more than 3,900 retail outlets. Scott was hired in 2009 as a four day per week route salesman and delivery driver. That same year, in June, Cowley did not permit Scott to take time off to attend a WatchTower convention. Scott filed an EEOC complaint, but dropped the charge after Cowley agreed to allow Scott to take the first week of June off work every year so that he could attend his religious convention. Scott also agreed to give Cowley two weeks' notice if the date of the convention ever changed.
Around 2010, Cowley began requiring Scott to deliver pornographic materials, which violated Scott's religious beliefs. Scott raised the issue with his supervisor, but was not allowed to change his route. Scott then asked a fellow driver to deliver his pornographic material for him, and the co-worker agreed. Although Mr. Scott sought the "accommodation" himself, Cowley permitted the change, and since that time, Scott has not been required to deliver any materials that he considers offensive.
In January 2016, the GPS device installed in Scott's company vehicle for safety purposes sent out twenty-one "tamper alerts." Scott admits that the tamper alerts resulted from him removing the GPS from his vehicle after work hours, and then putting it back before work hours. As a result of the alerts, Cowley secured Scott's GPS device to his company vehicle with a zip-tie, to prevent future tampering. In his complaint, Scott claimed that the zip-tie resembled a "noose" which insinuated a "lynching". Scott alleged such as part of his claim of a hostile work environment.
On March 23, 2016, Scott used his company vehicle during work hours to attend the WatchTower Society's annual "LORD'S EVENING MEAL". Company policy dictates that employees are not permitted to use company vehicles for personal use during work hours without permission. Scott received a "write-up" for violating company policy, and for failing to follow his route guide, despite Scott claiming that his use of the vehicle was okay with his supervisors.
In May 2016, Scott began writing letters to Cowley's CEO and President, John Cowley, complaining of what he felt was unfair treatment by his supervisors, racism in the workplace, and seeking to discuss the issues with John. Cowley. Scott sent John Cowley multiple letters on May 6, 2016, June 13, 2016, August 31, 2016, November 17, 2017, and January 12, 2018.
In July 2017, Scott received a write-up because a rack at one of his stores was almost empty, and because a paperback bestseller rack was a "little low". In his complaint, Scott presented testimony from a caucasian coworker claiming that when the company auditor discovered his racks inadequately stocked, the auditor simply ordered additional merchandise to be stocked -- without "writing up" the caucasian coworker.
On October 11, 2017 and on October 18, 2017, Scott was written up for not following his delivery schedule. According to the write-ups, Scott was making deliveries on Wednesdays, which is not a scheduled work day. In his complaint, Scott presented testimony from a caucasian coworker claiming that with company knowledge that he would occasionally work on Wednesdays (unscheduled) whenever he would get behind on his route. He was never written up for doing so.
Additionally, Scott presented evidence of four inappropriate jokes made by one caucasian co-worker. One comment involved remarks about "Jim Crow". Another was a remark that a person suspected of murder had a dark complexion and looked like Scott. One was a joke that Scott was responsible for graffiti because it appeared to be a religious symbol. The fourth was an instance where Scott was cursed at for failing to write down his van's mileage. The USDC eventually ruled that Scott's evidence of just four occurrences over a three year period is insufficient, as a matter of law, to support a hostile workplace claim. The jokes were infrequent, merely offensive as opposed to threatening, and did not interfere with Scott's work performance.
Scott originally filed this lawsuit in Kansas in December 2016. In September 2017, the lawsuit was transferred to Missouri. In August 2018, the USDC summarily dismissed all of Scott's lawsuit except for the allegations of racial discrimination. Pending.
GEORGENA NEWSOME v. DOLLAR GENERAL STORES was a 2015-18 Florida federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a 28 year-old female African-American Jehovah's Witness named Georgena Newsome. Dolgencorp hired Newsome as a cashier at the Dollar General store in Jasper, Florida, in August 2014.
Newsome had applied for the position by filling out an application on a computer. On this application, under each day of the week, Newsome indicated that she was available to work "Any" hours. After submitting this application, the Store Manager (SM) contacted Newsome and offered Newsome the job, and had Newsome complete additional paperwork. In this additional paperwork, Newsome indicated that she was not available to work on Sundays. Curiously, the store manager scheduled and Newsome worked the 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM (close) shift on the three Sundays following Newsome's hiring. Two months later, Newsome was promoted to Lead Sales Associate. Thereafter, Newsome worked mostly as "closing manager" from 4:00 PM to closing time at 10:00 PM. Following her promotion, Newsome worked the closing shift the next six Sundays in a row into January 2015.
In February 2015, SM "wrote up" Newsome's failure to comply with required store closing procedures on February 17, 2015. Specifically, Newsome had counted cash in the office with the office door unlocked and open. Money was left on desk with office door open. The time lock safe was started before store was closed. Money bags were not presented before Newsome left the store. Newsome was told that continued failure to protect store assets could result in disciplinary action including termination. Newsome noted on that "write-up" that she simply had been doing what/how SM trained and told her to do, and that now that she knew the proper way to do things, she would comply.
Around April 2015, Newsome first began directly requesting all or some Sundays off. Given that Newsome attended her local Kingdom Hall on Sunday mornings, it is not known what reasons that Newsome gave for wanting off on Sunday evenings. SM gave Newsome a variety of business reasons for being unable to comply with Newsome's request.
Around May 2015, Newsome called Dollar General HQ's Employee Response Center to complain about being over-worked. Newsome's many remarks included several negative comments about SM. Newsome made additional negative comments about SM to the HQ person who followed up on Newsome's original complaint.
On July 10, 2015, SM fired Newsome. According to DG's Progressive Counseling Form, Newsome had not followed required closing procedures on July 6, 2015, despite the February "write-up". After she was terminated, Newsome called DG HQ to report what she viewed as a retaliatory termination, and was told they would review what happened. Newsome never received a return call.
Georgena Newsome's following federal lawsuit was based on alleged religious discrimination and retaliation. Failure to accommodate was implied in Newsome's allegations. However, the USDC did not find Newsome's arguments to be compelling. Instead, the USDC proclaimed, "Based on the record before this Court, no reasonable juror could find that Dollar General more likely than not terminated Newsome for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason as opposed to the entirely legitimate reason that after being warned that failure to follow closing procedures could result in termination, Newsome again failed to follow money handling procedures for store closing." The USDC summarily dismissed Newsome's lawsuit in November 2018.
EEOC v. AMERICAN MEDICAL RESPONSE was a 2016-19 Tennessee federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a female Jehovah's Witness former employee. AMR is a private ambulance service which operates nationwide, and employs many satisfied Jehovah's Witnesses. Around 2016, a female Jehovah's Witness was hired at AMR's Memphis, Tennessee location. That JW Employee initially was given off every Sunday so that she could attend the less than two-hour long Sunday service each week. After granting this "religious accommodation" for seven months, AMR allegedly began scheduling that JW Employee for work on Sundays. At some point thereafter, AMR fired that JW Employee for receiving two "no-call/no-shows" in a 12-month period, and for a seatbelt violation. EEOC alleged that the firing was in retaliation for that JW Employee exercising her religious beliefs and practices. EEOC sought both compensatory and punitive damages. A settlement was reached in July 2019 in which AMR agreed to pay $40,000.00 to the JW victim, plus allow EEOC to oversee the company's employee management for two years.
EEOC v. RALEY'S SUPERMARKET is an ongoing 2015-17 California federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a Jehovah's Witness female named Jennifer Webb. RALEY'S is a family owned chain of 130 supermarkets operating in California and Nevada. Over the decades, RALEY'S 15,000 employees have included many satisfied Jehovah's Witnesses, including one JW Male who recently retired after 30 years employment with RALEY'S.
Allegedly, in Spring 2014, prior to her hire as a courtesy clerk at Raley's Chico, California store, Jennifer Webb explained that she was required to attend religious meetings twice a week as a Jehovah's Witness, and that she would not be able to accept the job if she were asked to work Wednesday evenings after 5:00 PM and Sundays before 4:00 PM. For six months, RALEY'S scheduled Jennifer Webb's work hours accordingly. However, in November 2014, Webb was scheduled to work from 2:00 PM until 11:00 PM on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. When Jennifer Webb requested that her schedule be changed, allegedly, she was told that her religious accommodation "didn't matter" due to the Thanksgiving rush. Jennifer Webb reported to work on that Wednesday at 2:00 PM, but when she again stated her need to leave by 5:00 PM to attend her religious meeting, she allegedly was terminated. This federal lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages. RALEY'S disputes some or all of the allegations, including that Webb was fired on the day and under the circumstances that she claims. Outcome pending, although predictable.
JASON LLOYD SMALL v. CITY OF MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE is an ongoing 2014-17 Tennessee federal employment discrimination lawsuit. Incomplete, limited details available. Jason L. Small, age 41, of Memphis, Tennessee, is a Jehovah's Witness Employee who has been employed as a "bargaining unit" employee with the City of Memphis's Memphis Light, Gas, and Water Division (MLGW) since around 1996. Around 2010, Jason Small, whom had worked as an Electrician since initial employment, suffered an unknown "wrist injury" (carpal tunnel???) which led to four surgeries over the following four years. Around 2013, Jason Small's doctor placed Small on permanent work restrictions which prevented Jason Small from performing duties as an Electrician. Jason Small apparently received disability leave and benefits.
Per MLGW employment policies, Jason Small had one year to apply for and be hired to another job at MLGW for which he was qualified. Apparently, Jason Small was eventually hired for such a position, but Small now complains that the scheduling for this unidentified position impedes Small's ability to regularly attend the midweek evening meeting and the Sunday meeting at his local Memphis Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Jason Small further complains that he has been disciplined for missing work and clocking in late because of attending Kingdom Hall meetings.
At some point, Jason Small filed a complaint with the EEOC which alleged employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. After its own thorough investigation, in 2016, EEOC apparently declined to pursue Small's claims, but instead issued to Small a Right-To-Sue Letter. In January 2017, Jason Small hired his own attorney and filed this federal lawsuit. In addition to the above allegations and claims, Jason Small claims that due to the large size of his employer that MLGW is legally obligated to place him in an employment position which fully accomodates his religious meeting schedule at his local Kingdom Hall even if such requires MLGW to violate its "collective bargaining agreement". Outcome pending.
JASON LLOYD SMALL v. MARCIA LARUBA SMALL (Divorce with children: 2003)
JASON L. SMALL v. MLGW (Workers Compensation: 2004)
JASON L. SMALL v. MLGW (Workers Compensation: 2011)
BOBBY WALKER JR. v. INDIAN RIVER TRANSPORT COMPANY is an ongoing 2015-17 Florida federal employment discrimination lawsuit. Indian River Transport Company is a nationwide for-hire trucking firm headquartered in Winter Haven, Florida, which specializes in transporting perishable foodstuffs for others. Bobby Walker Jr. is a male African-American Jehovah's Witness who was employed at IRTC for only about five months before he resigned on May 3, 2014.
When initially hired in November 2013, Bobby Walker requested only local routes even though none were then available. Walker initially was assigned an "over-the-road" (long haul) route. In January 2014, Walker was assigned a regional run to Georgia. In March 2014, Walker was assigned to a new account -- hauling milk from Shenandoah Dairy in Live Oak, Florida to its Lee packaging plant in Orlando, Florida. Two weeks later, Walker complained about multiple loading and unloading problems at the dairy client's locations, and further requested that he not have to work on Sundays so that he could attend religious services on Sundays at his local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. IRTC had no choice but to remove Walker from its dairy client's run. It was essential for drivers on that run to be extremely flexible, including being available to work on Sundays, in order to meet the needs of the dairy and its milk production schedule, which was seven days per week. Drivers were often required to wait unpredictable lengths of time to unload, or arrive early and on short notice to load.
Thereafter, Indian River Transport Company attempted to "accomodate" Bobby Walker's religious needs by only assigning Walker to local runs which allowed Walker off every Sunday morning. However, after March 15, 2014, IRTC's dispatcher could not reach Walker on increasing multiple occasions, and when contacted, Walker declined some assignments for non-religious reasons. In mid-April 2014, Bobby Walker filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. IRTC continued to offer Walker runs, and Walker worked some of those offers. Walker mailed his letter of resignation on May 3, 2014.
This federal lawsuit alleging disparate treatment, failure to accommodate, and retaliation was filed in September 2015. In January 2017, the USDC issued a summary judgment in the employer's favor. The USDC's opinion contained many interesting observations about Bobby Walker's failed lawsuit:
The undisputed facts demonstrate that after Walker requested Sundays off, Indian River provided him a reasonable accommodation. He never suffered an adverse employment action and was not constructively discharged or retaliated against for requesting Sundays off or for filing an EEOC complaint. ... ...
Walker argues that after he was removed from the T.G. Lee run, he was only offered runs that required Sunday work or had lower pay, and Indian River otherwise refused to give him work. Contrary to [WALKER'S] argument, the record evidence demonstrates otherwise. The undisputed evidence demonstrates not only that he was offered and drove several non-Sunday runs after being removed from the T.G. Lee run, but that he rejected runs because dispatch could not tell him in advance how much he would be paid, or he was unwilling to accept runs with long wait times. ... ...
The undisputed record evidence establishes that after Walker was removed from the T.G. Lee run, Indian River offered him alternative runs on a regular basis, some of which he accepted, and some of which [WALKER] declined for reasons having nothing to do with his religious beliefs. By offering alternative non-Sunday runs, Indian River did all that it was reasonably required to do to accommodate Walker's religious beliefs, since those offers eliminated the conflict between the T.G. Lee run and Walker's desire to attend Sunday services. ... ...
The undisputed record evidence also demonstrates numerous contacts between Indian River dispatchers and Walker after he was removed from the T.G. Lee run on March 15. According to dispatcher Primavera, the only time she called Walker was to offer him a run, and there were times he rejected work, and times he complained about wait time for runs he did not want. ... And there were times when she could not get through to Walker ... On one occasion, he failed to deliver a load because of the wait time, instead dropping it at the yard for another driver to complete the delivery. ... ...
Dispatcher Primavera attempted to reach him on March 19, but there is no record of a return call. ... There was a three minute call to Walker on March 26. On March 27, he failed to show for a run he had committed to. ... ...
That some of the runs offered Walker may have required Sunday work, or were lower paying runs than the T.G. Lee run, or involved longer wait times than were acceptable to him, does not render Indian River's attempt to accommodate him unreasonable. He was not required to work on Sundays. Notwithstanding, on occasion, he chose to work on Sundays. That some of the runs may have paid less than the T.G. Lee run does not make the accommodation unreasonable. ... ...
Once an employer offers "any reasonable accommodation," that is sufficient to meet its accommodation obligation, and the inquiry ends. ... Considering the undisputed fact that Indian River offered runs to Walker which avoided the conflict with his religious beliefs, and that Walker accepted some runs and rejected others because he was not satisfied with his pay or wait time, even accepting all facts in a light most favorable to Walker, no reasonable jury could find that Indian River failed to reasonably accommodate Walker's religious beliefs.
It is undisputed that Walker was never subjected to an adverse employment action or otherwise disciplined as a result of requesting Sundays off. ... ...
As to his claim of heightened scrutiny, there is no evidence other than Walker's subjective perception and vague description that he was being watched, that "different employees" were "eyeing on [him] or pointing," and that during one phone call, Ferguson was "angry" and "stressing" Walker, ... And, as noted, there is no evidence that he was subjected to any disciplinary action. ... ...
An email from Wisdom regarding the May 3 stop engine incident states:
The driver of truck 10229 called this weekend with a red stop engine and power de-rate. [WALKER] was asked if he had checked his water and oil to which he replied he had. When the on-road service arrived, they found the truck low of water. They topped off the water and the truck was fine. This driver's lack of performing a pre-trip inspection cost the company money that could have been avoided.
While Walker implies that the problem was wrongly blamed on him, there is no evidence that the email was false. And, it was sent on May 5, 2014, after Walker resigned. ... ...
Walker contends that ... Indian River's Director of Human Resources, labeled him as "problematic" because he requested Sundays off. ... Significantly, however, [WALKER] takes Ferguson's statement out of context. Ferguson actually said: "As per Angel's e-mail, [Walker] was problematic on [the T.G. Lee] run and one of the primary issues was . . . he requires Sundays off to attend church." ... This is not evidence of discrimination. To the contrary, as will be explained, it simply demonstrates that Walker's religious belief conflicted with the T.G. Lee run requirements, and was therefore understandably "problematic." Moreover, Angel Deliz, Walker's dispatcher at the time, testified that the main issue he was having with Walker was him taking a load home and not contacting Deliz or returning his calls. ... ...
Walker also contends that he was deemed a "complainer" because he asked for a dedicated week-day run. Walker cites Ferguson's testimony about an email from Primavera to Ferguson and four others, stating that Walker had been complaining because he wanted a dedicated run and did not like wait times. ... Significantly, Walker's request for Sundays off is not mentioned in the email or the cited testimony.
Lastly, Walker asserts that Harned suggested to Primavera that Walker should "disappear." ... However, the actual statement in Harned's response to Primavera's email about Walker complaining was that he "either needs to disappear or run OTR." ... And Harned explained that by "disappear" he meant either pursue other employment or run over-the-road again because he had been offered numerous local opportunities that had not worked out. ... ... The use of "uncooperative," "problematic," and "complaining" to describe Walker and his conduct was largely unrelated to his request for an accommodation. To the extent Ferguson determined that he would be "problematic" on the T.G. Lee run because of his request for Sundays off, Indian River explains that the T.G. Lee run was seven days a week and required flexibility as it often required drivers to wait unpredictable lengths of time or arrive early and on short notice. ... ...
While Walker may have subjectively perceived that he was being closely watched, no reasonably objective employee would have resigned because of what he describes. And none of the comments he complains about were made to directly to him. While an employee subjected to such comments might subjectively perceive them to be unfair, inappropriate, or intolerable, in light of the record evidence, a reasonable employee in Walker's position would not have felt compelled to resign. ... ...
Indeed, Walker testified that he resigned on May 3 because he thought he was going to be terminated when Ferguson asked him to bring his truck in after the brakes locked up. ... But in April , Walker had applied for a job in Key West, explaining that he would be relocating there. ... As Defendant correctly argues, an employee who voluntarily quits his job, absent a constructive discharge, has no Title VII claim. And, as Defendant points out, if Walker believed his working conditions had become intolerable, by quitting, he failed to exercise reasonable efforts to enable Indian River to address and rectify his concerns. Generally, a constructive discharge claim will not survive if the employer was not given the time to remedy the situation. ... ...
In his response to Defendant's summary judgment motion, [WALKER] puts his own spin on what he contends are disputed facts. If one ignores the record evidence and fails to read the deposition and exhibit citations in [WALKER'S] response, his response reads as a compelling case of religious discrimination. However, [WALKER] not only takes liberty with the facts, he makes factual argument that is entirely unsupported by the record evidence, and proffers factually inaccurate contentions.
For example, in his response to Defendant's summary judgment motion, Plaintiff contends: "Not only did Defendant refuse to give Plaintiff time off on Sundays as requested, it actually began scheduling him for more Sunday work and fired him when he objected." ... That statement is indisputably false. Plaintiff was not "fired." He resigned. ... .
And while Plaintiff was offered some runs which required Sunday work after he was removed from the T.G. Lee run, two of which he accepted, he was offered considerably more runs that did not require Sunday work, as summarized in the discussion at p. 9-11 above. As noted, it is undisputed that after he was removed from the T.G. Lee run, he worked nine non-Sundays and two Sundays, and declined work on April 18, a Friday.
Plaintiff accuses Defendant of "misleadingly" suggesting that "during April 2014, Primavera attempted to contact Plaintiff but could not get a hold of him," arguing that "[t]his assertion is not supported by the record evidence." ... And he contends that "Defendant's own telephone records show that Defendant's first attempt to call him was on April 15, 2015," citing Exhibit B to Primavera's deposition and Exhibit D to the Deliz deposition, parenthetically noting "no attempt to call during the two weeks prior to April 15, 2914." ... Those contentions find no support in the cited exhibits, and in fact, are contradicted by the exhibits.
First, Primavera deposition Exhibits A and D, Indian River's telephone records, as discussed below, show numerous telephonic contacts between Indian River and Walker throughout March and during the first week of April. Second, Exhibit D to the Deliz deposition, Primavera's April 15 email to Ferguson, flatly contradicts [WALKER'S] accusation that Defendant's contention is misleading. In her email, Primavera tells Ferguson that "[t]he last time I spoke with him was over two weeks ago, as I recall the only conversation I had with him was about that he wanted a dedicated run." And she went on to tell him "I cannot leave a message because his voice mail is not set up." By inference, these statements support Defendant's contention. And the inference [WALKER] suggests, that there were no attempts to contact him prior to April 15 is belied by the very telephone records he relies on.
Next, Plaintiff states unequivocally: "No phone or other communications were made to Plaintiff to offer him any runs prior to Defendant learning of the filing of his [EEOC] Charge." ... That statement is likewise not supported by the record evidence or cited exhibits.
Plaintiff signed the EEOC complaint on April 18, it was received by EEOC on April 21, and Indian River learned of it only when Ferguson received a letter or call from the EEOC. The very exhibit [WALKER] relies on, Exhibit A to Primavera's deposition, Indian River's telephone records, demonstrates that his statement is indisputably inaccurate. There were calls to and from Walker on April 7, 15, 16 and 18, and several calls on April 21, the day the EEOC received the complaint. ... Moreover, the Movement Display chart shows that Walker worked on March 17, 18, and 25, no-showed on March 27, worked on March 29, 31, and again on April 1, necessarily demonstrating communication with Plaintiff in which runs were offered, before Plaintiff's EEOC complaint was received by the EEOC.
Moreover, when Plaintiff contends ... that "after he requested a religious accommodation," "the majority of runs offered to him after this request required Sunday work," and "Defendant did not offer [non-Sunday] runs to Plaintiff," [WALKER] either ignores the record evidence discussed above or proffers an indisputably inaccurate statement. Indeed, just two pages later, Plaintiff references "the couple of runs which Plaintiff was offered that did not involve Sunday work. . ." ... Either he was or was not offered non-Sunday runs. Plaintiff cannot have it both ways. Rather, the record evidence shows without dispute that he was offered and accepted at least nine non-Sunday runs after he requested Sundays off.
Finally, Plaintiff argues that he "was not offered any work whatsoever for weeks after his request for religious accommodation . . ." ... That statement is likewise indisputably inaccurate. As noted, after his conversation with Deliz and Godwin on March 15, Walker worked March 17, 18, 25, no-showed on March 27, worked March 29 and 31, and again on April 1, 21, 22, 27, 29, and 30.
In February 2017, Bobby Walker's attorneys filed an appeal. The USCA affirmed in July 2018.
See also: BOBBY WALKER JR. v. CITY OF KEY WEST FLORIDA.
ADAM HABARTA v. TORONTO ONTARIO SCHOOL BOARD was a 2015-16 Canadian employment discrimination arbitration case. Adam Habarta, of Toronto, Canada, is a Jehovah's Witness Minister who has been employed as a janitor at the Danforth Collegiate Institute since 1994. During Habarta's entire 22 year employment period, Adam Habarta has worked only four of the five shifts per week which his "union" job normally requires to constitute a "fulltime" position consisting of 8 hours per day, five days per week. For 20 years, the Toronto School Board permitted Habarta to take off every single "Thursday" in order to "accommodate" Habarta's religious "need" to attend religious services on Thursday evenings at the Birkdale Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. For twenty years, this religious "accommodation" has required Danforth's shift supervisor to "cover" for Habarta every Thursday. In January 2015, Adam Habarta's "seniority" made him eligible for the shift supervisor position at Danforth, and he so applied. Due to the fact that Habarta was applying for the very supervisory position which had been forced to "cover" for Habarta's absence every Thursday for the past 20+ years, the school board gave that position to a janitor with lesser seniority on the grounds of "undue hardship".
In December 2016, an Arbitrator named Christopher J. Albertyn ruled that the school board had violated the Ontario Human Rights Code, as well as the collective bargaining agreement, in that the school board had failed to continue to "accommodate" the religious needs of Adam Habarta. The school board was ordered to promote Adam Habarta to either the shift supervisor position at Danforth, or an equivalent position, while continuing to "accommodate" Adam Habarta's religious need to skip work every Thursday. The school board was also ordered to pay Adam Habarta his "lost earnings" dating back to February 2015, plus an additional $1000.00 in "damages". The Arbitrator further ruled that it was up to the school board and the union to figure out how best to "cover" Adam Habarta's absence as the shift supervisor every Thursday. No good deed goes unpunished.
RICHARD C. ZEIGLER v. PEORIA COUNTY, ILLINOIS ET AL was a 2016 Illinois federal employment discrimination lawsuit which was filed by a Jehovah's Witness Minister named Richard Zeigler, age 48, formerly of Peoria, Illinois. Incomplete specifics available.
From June 2008 until August 2012, Richard Zeigler was employed as a Deputy Coroner by the Peoria County Coroner's office. Dick Zeiglar alleges that the Peoria County Coroner refused to give him time-off to attend TWO WatchTower "SIGN LANGAGE" Conventions -- in June 2012 and August 2012. Zeiglar was suspended for 45 days, and thereafter terminated in August 2012. Thereafter, Richard Zeigler filed a complaint of "failure to provide an accommodation" with the EEOC, which eventually attempted to mediate an agreement between the parties, but failed. Zeiglar then filed this federal lawsuit in January 2016. In June 2016, the USDC dismissed Zeiglar's claim for punitive damages. In December 2016, the Peoria County Government VOTED to SETTLE this lawsuit. Richard C. Zeigler received a total of $63,000.00, while his attorney received $15,000.00.
The media reporting of this lawsuit leaves a lot to be desired. We suspect that part of such was because this WatchTower Cult related case possibly was handled by insurance company claims adjusters and contracted attorneys unfamiliar with the WatchTower Cult, who possibly failed to discover all of the pertinent details and ask the right questions. For instance, one media report seems to indicate that Zeigler actually attended the two conventions, and was fired for doing so, while another media report seems to indicate that Zeigler did not attend the two conventions. Both media reports also are unclear as to how EEOC disposed of this case. Neither media report indicated whether Zeiglar's time-off request involved his earned vacation time requested in a timely fashion or involved additional days off.
In any event, neither media report includes the pertinent info as to whether Zeigler wanted to attend the two conventions as a regular convention attendee, or whether Zeigler simply wanted to "volunteer" as a worker at the two conventions. If the latter (likely, given that this involved two conventions only two months apart), then this would be yet another instance of a Jehovah's Witness Employee not being satisfied with forcing their employer to permit time-off to ATTEND a WatchTower convention, but also forcing their Employer to permit time-off so the JW can work as a VOLUNTEER at any number of WatchTower conventions held at any number of locations -- in this case, TWO SEPARATE BUT SAME CONTENT CONVENTIONS.
See other recent instances below where JW Employees attempted to force their Employers to permit time-off to "volunteer" to door-knock on Saturdays, and force their Employers to permit time-off to "volunteer" to perform construction/maintenance on Kingdom Halls. If this trend continues, Employers across the United States are going to be at the mercy of every JW Employee who wishes to "volunteer" for any of the plethora of volunteer "jobs" at the literally THOUSANDS of circuit and regional assemblies and conventions held continuously across the United States, as well as Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls construction and maintenance days.
LAMONTT M. PRESSLEY v. WAL-MART was a 2015-16 Pennsylvania federal employment discrimination case which involved a 47 year-old African-American Jehovah's Witnesss Minister named Lamontt Pressley, aka Lamont Pressley, aka Lamont M. Presley, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lamontt M. Pressley was employed at Wal-mart's Wyncote store from October 2010 until he was fired in February 2014. Pressley claimed that he was an Assistant Manager at the time of his termination, and that one of the Walmart store's higher managers gave Pressley an ultimatum to stop attending the Sunday and Wednesday evening meetings at his local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, or be fired. Pressley further alleged that upper management informed him on the day of his firing that they would no longer "accommodate" Pressley's attending two weekly meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Lamontt Pressley thereafter filed a complaint with the EEOC in August 2014 claiming religious discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment. Instead of immediately jumping on this seemingly "slam-dunk" case, the EEOC took until August 2015 to simply issue a Right-To-Sue Letter to Pressley. Pressley's own private attorney filed this action in November 2015 seeking equitable, punitive, and other damages. This lawsuit was "settled" confidentially in November 2016.
E.E.O.C. v. FOOD LION was a 2014-15 North Carolina federal court case which involved a Jehovah's Witness former employee named Victaurius L. Bailey, then age 62, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Victaurius Bailey was hired as a meat cutter at a Food Lion store in Winston-Salem in June 2011. Victaurius L. Bailey is a Jehovah's Witness Elder who attends Kingdom Hall meetings at some unspecified time on Sundays, and on Thursday evenings. At the time of his hire, Bailey asked that he not be scheduled to work on Sundays (times?) or Thursday evenings. The store manager for Food Lion's Market No. 1044 in Winston-Salem initially agreed to accommodate Bailey's request. However, only a week or so later, Bailey was transferred to work at the Kernersville Food Lion. There, the store manager told Bailey that he did not see how Bailey could work for Food Lion if he could not work on Sundays. Bailey was fired only three weeks after being hired. Victaurius L. Bailey filed a complaint with the EEOC, and the EEOC filed this lawsuit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with Food Lion. The EEOC alleged "religious discrimination" for Food Lion's failure to attempt to provide Bailey with an "accommodation", and sought back pay and future pay, unspecified non-pecuniary losses, punitive damages, and injunctive relief. In July 2015, FOOD LION settled this lawsuit -- paying a total of $50,500.00.
GARRETT TELFAIR and TRAVIS TELFAIR v. FEDERAL EXPRESS was a 2009-14 Florida federal court case involving two African-American Jehovah's Witness brothers living in/near West Palm Beach, Florida. Travis L. Telfair, age 45, has been a JW since 1984, and is a JW Elder at the Lake Park Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Travis Telfair has even served as "spokesperson" for WatchTower District Conventions. Garrett Jerome Telfair, age 39, has been a JW since 1986, and possibly also is an "elder".
Travis Telfair began working as a part-time courier for FEDEX, at the Palm Beach Airport, in 1991, while Garrett J. Telfair began in 1995. The Telfair brothers were well-known to be "Jehovah's Witnesses", and there had never been any problems. FEDEX had annually accommodated them whenever they needed time off to attend the multiple WatchTower conventions and assemblies. Initially, both brothers worked the morning shift, Tuesdays through Saturdays, but by the time of the controversy in 2009, both brothers worked the morning shift, Mondays through Fridays. In 2009, due to customer demand, FEDEX decided to switch both Telfair brothers and other employees to the Tue-Sat schedule. The Telfairs refused to agree to work on Saturdays due to it being "customary" for them to go door-knocking on Saturday mornings. FEDEX standard procedures permitted the Telfairs to apply for other available positions, but the Telfairs refused to take advantage of such, and were technically "terminated", although it was by their choice.
Thereafter, the Telfair brothers pursued allegations of racial discrimination, religious discrimination and failure to accommodate, and hostile work environment. The "hostile work environment" allegation was formally dropped during oral arguments at this summary judgment proceeding after the Telfairs were unable to present any evidence of such. Summary judgment was granted to FEDEX on all remaining claims by the Florida USDC. In May 2014, the USCA affirmed the lower court's decision.
Although the Telfairs lost overall because the USDC ruled that FEDEX had offered "reasonable accomodations", this USDC did rule that the Telfairs' belief that they were required to perform field ministry and Bible study on Saturdays was a protected "bona fide" religious belief -- at least at the summary judgment stage of a court case. Jehovah's Witnesses across the United States possibly may now point to this decision as legal justification for refusing to work on Saturdays. This USDC Opinion states, in part:
In their affidavits submitted in opposition to summary judgment, both plaintiffs aver that they hold a sincere belief it is their religious obligation to conduct Bible study groups and engage in field ministry work on Saturdays as members and elders in their Jehovah's Witness congregation. In deposition testimony, both further acknowledge that while it is customary for Jehovah's Witnesses to engage in field ministry on Saturdays, Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged and permitted to pursue field ministry on Monday through Friday as well. Similarly, they both acknowledge that Bible study and faith sharing are permitted on days other than Saturday, and that there is nothing in Jehovah's Witness doctrine, scripture or tenets prohibiting its members from working on Saturdays, nor is there any sanction (excommunication, shunning, expulsion) imposed against Jehovah's Witnesses who work on Saturdays. ... ... ...
Title VII is a neutral provision which entitles every employee to a reasonable accommodation of his or her religious beliefs and practices. ... An employer is not obligated to accommodate what amounts to a "purely personal preference," ... but, at the same time, "[t]he statute...leaves little room for a party to challenge the religious nature of an employee's professed beliefs." ... .
To qualify as a "bona fide" religious belief, the belief must be "sincerely held" and, "in the [believer's] own scheme of things, religious." ... Ordinarily, the sincerity of an employee's religious belief is a "quintessential fact question." appropriately reserved "for the fact finder at trial, not for the court at summary judgment. ... ."
... In this case, there is abundant evidence in the record to support the conclusion that both plaintiffs subjectively believed that the practice of field ministry and engagement in Bible study on Saturdays was a necessary expression of their religion. Indeed, FedEx does not quarrel with the subjective sincerity of these asserted beliefs. While FedEx does question whether the plaintiffs' perception of their religious obligations is actually grounded in formal Jehovah's Witness doctrine i.e., whether formal Jehovah's Witness doctrine actually requires that members or elders participate in Saturday field ministry or Bible study as opposed to simply encouraging these practices ... this debate is beyond the proper scope of this court's inquiry into the sincerity of the plaintiffs' religious beliefs. ...
FedEx does adduce some evidence that the plaintiffs' professed religious belief in the necessity of Saturday religious obligations is not rooted in formal Jehovah's Witness doctrine. While such evidence might have tangential relevance to the question of the sincerity of the plaintiffs' religious beliefs, it does not convert the plaintiffs' asserted belief system into a "personal preference" as a matter of law, as urged by FedEx. While it is true that beliefs and practices grounded in tenets or precepts of groups or entities that are more social and political than religious do not qualify as religious within Title VII, ... it is also clear that "Title VII's protections are not limited to beliefs and practices that courts perceive as "acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensive to others," and that an employee's religious beliefs need not be espoused by a formal religion or conventionally organized church in order to qualify for statutory protection. ...
In this case, there is abundant evidence that the plaintiffs' beliefs and practices relate to their own interpretation of their religious obligations as Jehovah's Witness elders, and no evidence from which a finder of fact might reasonably infer that either plaintiff was insincere in his asserted beliefs. FedEx does not attempt to argue otherwise. As it appears that plaintiffs have raised sufficient evidence to present triable issues on whether their beliefs and practices are of a religious nature, they adduce sufficient evidence to satisfy the first element of their prima facie failure to accommodate claim. ...
2014 UPDATE: Readers should know that this TELFAIR decision is already being cited by other federal district courts (USDC). In June 2014, in CHANDLER v. INFINITY INSURANCE GROUP, which also involved a former Jehovah's Witness Employee who was alleging religious discrimination and retaliation, a USDC in Alabama stated in part:
Religious discrimination cases differ from other Title VII cases in that the plaintiff must show that the employer was made aware of the religious practice at issue, and was given an opportunity to accommodate it. ... The second element of a prima facie case of religious discrimination is met only where the plaintiff has "informed [the employer] of the existence of [the religious] belief and its conflict with the requirement." Telfair v. Federal Express Corp. ... (Jehovah's Witness told employer that Saturday Bible studies were a necessary expression of that faith and that working on Saturdays conflicted with the belief) ... .
We just recently found the following Canadian case which contains an "employment issue" that we have been expecting for some time now to be raised by a Jehovah's Witness Employee. In the TELFAIR case summarized above, we found two Jehovah's Witness Employees recently attempting to expand the days/times that Employers are required to "accommodate" JW Employees with time off from work to include "Saturdays", which is the day when many JWs who work weekdays have customarily performed voluntary door-to-door "field service" for the WatchTower Society -- even though the WatchTower Society permits individual JWs to perform their volunteer door-knocking at any time of their individual choosing.
In this recent Canadian case, a Jehovah's Witness attempted to expand the times that Employers are required to "accommodate" JW Employees with time off from work to include time to volunteer on Kingdom Hall construction and renovation projects. This case was eventually ruled to be time-barred, but the facts of the case should be "educational" for Employers.
CHRIS BAHN v. RIO TINTO ALCAN ET AL was a 2011 British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal case. In March 2011, a Jehovah's Witness employee named Chris Bahn filed a complaint against Rio Tinto Alcan which alleged "religious discrimination" due to the Employer's failure to grant "time off" work in August 2010, so that Bahn could volunteer on a Kingdom Hall renovation project, which Bahn characterized as "a form of 'sacred service' for him and his family".
In the discussion of this case, it was revealed that Chris Bahn had had a number of confrontations with the Employer over the years. Sometime in either 2003, 2005, or both, Bahn had filed an internal complaint due to being denied "time off" to attend WatchTower Conventions. The Employer claimed that Bahn had been denied time off due to "operational reasons", and that since 2005, Bahn's requests for "vacation time" to attend annual WatchTower Conventions have been "accommodated".
In December 2010, Bahn filed another complaint with the Union after the Employer denied Bahn reimbursement for the cost of renewing his Level 3 First Aid Ticket. Bahn alleged that the denial was petty retaliation for his previous complaints, and that he was being personally attacked and harassed. Employer stated that due to a change in procedure, a number of employees were no longer reimbursed for such costs, not just Chris Bahn.
Employer further claimed that Chris Bahn had not requested "time off" to volunteer on the Kingdom Hall renovation project until three months after annual vacation booking was closed under the collective agreement process. Employer claims that management met with Bahn several times to attempt to "accommodate" his request, but was unable to do so.
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