Jehovah's Witnesses are also expected to spend a half day each and every week in "field service", which is their term for doing door-to-door recruiting. Employed JWs typically go out in field service on weekends. Almost always this is an organized congregational activity, which is preceded by a 15-20 minute meeting, generally on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. Most congregations also hold such meetings on Tuesday through Friday mornings, and occasionally weekday afternoons, and even some evenings during summer months. JWs will meet at the Kingdom Hall (and sometimes at the "book study" locations in larger congregations) to make arrangements for performing field service. There is always the 15-20 minute "meeting" held to briefly discuss a "daily text" from the Bible. These meetings are almost always conducted by an Elder, or when unavailable, a Ministerial Servant (deacon). Generally the conductor will perform a "demonstration" how to present the "suggested offer" of the month. The conductor will also assign drivers, and who makes up each "car group". The conductor also makes certain that each car group will "work" a specific "territory", which has been mapped out by the congregation. Every element of this JW activity, like all JW activities, is precisely "controlled", so that the individual JW never forgets who is in charge of everything the JW does.
Jehovah's Witnesses also have three Conventions which they attend each year. Typically, a JW family must travel to these, unless they just so happen to live in the city where such are held. Congregations are divided into groups of approximately 20, which together are called a "Circuit". Each year, the Circuit has a one-day "assembly", held on either a Saturday or Sunday, which is called their "Special Assembly Day". The Circuit also conducts a two-day weekend "Assembly" called their "Circuit Assembly". These two Circuit events are held one in the fall-winter, and one in the winter-spring. Summers are reserved for the main annual WatchTower Convention, which is termed the "District Convention". "Districts" are groupings of 8-12 circuits. These are three-day events held from Friday through Sunday. If a JW family must travel very far for the District Convention, an employee may need to take that Thursday off in order to make preparations and travel.
2009 UPDATE: Effective January 2009, the three meetings previously held on two different weekday evenings have been consolidated to a single weekday evening. All three consecutive meetings, now held only at a local Kingdom Hall, last for a total of only one hour and forty-five minutes. Sunday services have also been shortened to approximately 90 minutes. (Evidently, Armageddon, when all Employers are going to be destroyed, is finally going to occur "any day now".) We are NOT revising the preceding opening explanatory paragraphs because non-JW readers need to understand the circumstances under which the older pre-2009 employment period lawsuits summarized below arose and were ultimately decided.
Thus, after January 2009, Jehovah's Witness Employees should be asking for time off necessary to attend ONLY the approximately one hour and forty-five minutes long meeting held on a mid-weekday evening, and ONLY the approximately 90 minutes long meeting held on either Sunday morning or afternoon. We can see no circumstances where a JW Employee should be requiring employers to completely exclude Sundays (Jehovah's Witnesses do NOT celebrate a weekly sabbath as do Jews or SDAs), or completely exclude an entire weekday. That does NOT mean that some JW Employees will not attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of naive, ignorant employers!!!
"LORD'S EVENING MEAL" Meeting. This annual 45 minute long meeting 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 is a religious "holiday" for which the JW Employee should automatically receive off the entire day. Since every congregation has invitations printed for this meeting 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 meeting, and time to return to work if the employer needs the JW Employee to return to work.
While attendance at the LEM meeting is 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 after sundown at the same Kingdom Hall. If the requested time off is a hardship for an employer, an employer in an urban area might ask their JW Employee if there are other LEM meetings held at the JW Employee's regular Kingdom Hall, and if they would be willing to attend one of the other scheduled LEMs. If not, the employer might even ask whether there is a LEM at a different Kingdom Hall which their JW Employee could conveniently attend.
FYI EMPLOYERS: Publicly, the WatchTower Cult equates its annual "Lord's Evening Meal" Meeting 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.
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 Florida USDC summarily dismissed this lawsuit in total. 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.
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 is a highly interesting ongoing 2015-16 Pennsylvania federal employment discrimination case which involves 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 claims 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 alleges 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. Outcome pending.
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.
JEAN FRANCIS v. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR was a 2013 federal USDC decision which involved a high-level federal management employee who was a Seventh Day Adventist who filed a religious discrimination complaint against the DOL due to various management negatives that resulted from this SDA's refusal to work during her Sabbath -- from sundown Fridays until sundown on Saturdays. Just prior to the start of negative management actions against Francis, a Jehovah's Witness named Serge Louis was hired as a Lead Budget Analyst to work under Francis's supervision. During Serge Louis's interview with Francis's own supervisor, Serge Louis informed Francis's supervisor that he would not be able to work during some weekday evenings due to his own WatchTower meetings. Francis's supervisor asked Serge Louis whether he was "one of those who can't work on Friday evenings and Saturdays", to which Louis responded "No". Interestingly, Francis's supervisor then asked Serge Louis to REPORT TO HER ON JEAN FRANCIS's ACTIVITIES at work, which according to the USDC Opinion, Serge Louis "did for some time".
E.E.O.C. v. UNITED PARCEL SERVICE was a 2012-13 New Jersey federal lawsuit filed by EEOC on behalf of a male Jehovah's Witness named Christopher Pompey. U.P.S. hired Christopher Pompey as a part-time truck loader at its Saddle Brook, New Jersey facility in April 2011. However, Chris Pompey's very first assigned shift conflicted with the WatchTower Society's annual "Memorial" celebration. Pompey notified UPS of such, and requested that he either be given a different start date, be reassigned to another shift on the original start date, or be given time off during his shift to attend the religious service. UPS allegedly refused to make any accommodations for this new hire, and fired Christopher Pompey after he failed to show up for work on his start date. Thereafter, UPS allegedly assigned Christopher Pompey a "do not hire" status, and refused to hire him when he applied for a different position at UPS's Staten Island facility. In November 2013, U.P.S. paid Christopher Pompey $70,000.00 to settle his lawsuit.
Here is another type of Jehovah's Witnesses related employment discrimination court case which we have been awaiting for some time. We knew that it was just a matter of time before a Governmental Agency responsible for handling "discrimination" claims would themselves be sued by a JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEE alleging "religious discrimination"!!!
LINDA K. HUGGINS v. NORTH CAROLINA HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION was a 2009-13 North Carolina federal court case. Linda K. Huggins, of Raleigh, North Carolina, age 59, was employed as the receptionist/secretary for the North Carolina Human Relations Commission from May 2004 until she was fired in January 2009 due to "unacceptable personal conduct, specifically conduct unbecoming a State employee that is detrimental to State service, insubordination, and conduct for which no reasonable person should expect to receive prior warning". The NCHRC is responsible for enforcing and administering North Carolina's Fair Housing Law, including investigating and litigating Fair Housing claims. Linda Huggins' immediate supervisor was the Director of the HRC -- initially a female, who was replaced by a male in 2005.
In the Summer of 2006, Linda K. Huggins began filing the first of multiple complaints against the male Director of the HRC. In 2006, Huggins alleged that the male HRC Director had inappropriately questioned her regarding her request for time off work to have a mammogram performed, including accusing the Director of having commented about the "appearance of her breasts". Later, Huggins alleged that starting in 2007 that the Director sporadically rubbed his body up against her breasts. Huggins also complained about a 2006 "Counseling Letter" issued to her by the Director caused by Huggins sending "challenging, unnecessary, and disrespectful" emails to other HRC employees regarding agency procedures.
Linda K. Huggins, WHO LIVED IN RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, also complained about the delayed approval of her request made in AUGUST 2006 for time-off to ALLEGEDLY attend a WatchTower Convention ALLEGEDLY being held in TENNESSEE in November 2006 and December 2006. Huggins complained that her request was not approved until three days prior to the ALLEGED WatchTower Convention in Tennessee, and that such created a financial hardship for Huggins due to having to make last minute travel arrangements. (The larger 3-day weekend annual SUMMER WatchTower District convention for JW congregations in the Raleigh, North Carolina area is held in Raleigh -- see the Homepage of this very website -- and the two smaller weekend Spring and Fall WatchTower Circuit Assemblies -- held on Saturdays and Sundays -- are also held in the Raleigh area.)
In JUNE 2007, Linda K. Huggins also requested time-off to ALLEGEDLY attend WatchTower conventions on July 13 and July 16, August 3, and August 15, 16, and 17, 2007. (Jehovah's Witnesses are notified of the dates and locations of the larger 3-day weekend annual SUMMER WatchTower District conventions every January.) Huggins received approval for the FOUR days in August 2007, but was denied leave for the two days in July because the HRC was relocating its offices on those dates, and help during that relocation was needed from staffers. The USDC later stated that Huggins failed to show that the HRC had done anything discriminatory in denying that 2007 leave request, but rather had good reason to do so. Linda Huggins also alleged in her lawsuit that she had been denied time-off to attend WatchTower conventions in 2008, but the USDC noted that Huggins had failed to produce any evidence whatsoever of those alleged leave denials.
These and multiple other complaints were not only both made informally and filed formally, but during her employment, Linda K. Huggins even sent letters complaining about the HRC Director to two Governors of North Carolina, two Senators (federal), and even President Obama. Linda Huggins even eventually filed a formal complaint against the HRC's General Counsel for allegedly removing a cooler mug from her desk, and Huggins even made an informal complaint of "stalking" by the General Counsel due to his "lurking" around her desk while she worked.
In May 2008, Linda K. Huggins filed a complaint of gender and religious discrimination with North Carolina's Office of Administrative Hearings. Huggins also filed those same charges, plus "retaliation", with the federal EEOC. In July 2008, Huggins even filed a police report alleging that she had received threatening telephone calls at her home, and that she believed the calls were made by the Director of the HRC. In December 2008, Linda K. Huggins was placed on "investigatory leave", after she exhibited what HRC's Director characterized as "an increased pattern of irrational and harassing behaviors", plus allegedly becoming confrontational with her co-workers, and culminating in Huggins calling the General Counsel an "asshole" and a "freaking moron". Huggins was referred for an Employee Assistance Program assessment, which found no justification to excuse Huggins' conduct. Huggins was terminated in January 2009.
In March 2009, Linda K. Huggins filed a second complaint of gender and religious discrimination with the EEOC, which eventually issued a Right-To-Sue letter regarding both complaints in July 2010. In October 2010, Linda Huggins filed this federal lawsuit which alleged racial discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, and retaliation. The USDC dismissed the claim of racial discrimination in September 2011, and the balance of Huggins claims were summarily dismissed by the USDC in September 2013. Awaiting likely appeal.
Every year, the standard operating procedure of the WatchTower Society is to intentionally wait until sometime in mid to late January to notify Jehovah's Witnesses of the date and location of the summer WatchTower District Convention to which their congregation has been assigned. Since this "standard operating procedure" has for decades repeatedly caused problems for employed Jehovah's Witnesses whose employers require their employees to have requested vacation time prior to this delayed notification, and since those secreted dates and locations have allegedly been finalized many months previous, it is reasonable speculation that this is an intentional act by the WatchTower Society to create legal confrontations between JWs and their employers.
PAUL STONE v. CITY OF LYNN, MASSACHUSETTS was a 2010-11 Civil Service Commission decision. Paul Stone, a Jehovah's Witness of thirty years (thus probably a "Congregation Elder"), is a full-time custodian at Connery Elementary School, who was originally hired October 21, 1997. Stone is the only custodian assigned to the 6:30 AM to 3:00 PM shift. Paul Stone's Disciplinary History included the following:
In October 2008, Stone was issued a written warning after he failed to remain in phone contact with the principal of Connery Elementary School as instructed. In October 2009, Stone was given a written warning for violating the Departmental procedure for locking up dangerous chemicals, and for failing to clean the closet floors. In October 2009, Stone was issued a written warning for taking sick time without notifying his supervisor. In December 2009, Stone was issued a verbal warning because he had asked another employee to come in early and cover for him while he attended a meeting with his Supervisor. In April 2010, an in-depth inspection of the Connery Elementary School was conducted on April 23, 2010, because on April 14, the school was found to be severely lacking in cleanliness.
Although Paul Stone had known the date (Friday-Sunday, May 28-30) and location (Portland, Maine) of the WatchTower District Convention to which his Lynn, Massachusetts congregation was assigned for several weeks, purportedly due to an emergency surgery, it was not until February 19, 2010, that Stone requested vacation leave for May 26 to 28, 2010, and for June 1 to 4, 2010. (May 29-31 was Memorial Day weekend.) The request for May 26-28, 2010 was denied. The request for June 1-4, 2010 was approved. In February, Stone learned that the May 26 and 27, 2010 dates had become available, and he requested and was approved for vacation on those days. Stone also notified his Supervisor that he wanted to attend the WatchTower Convention from May 28 through May 30, and further requested that another custodian be assigned to cover his shift on Friday, May 28. Such was never approved. Stone also spoke with several managers about the possibility of using an "emergency day" on May 28, but allegedly was told on four occasions that he could not do such. On Friday, May 28, Stone telephoned an emergency day into the attendance line. Because Stone is the only custodian on duty at Connery Elementary School, and because another custodian had an actual emergency that day, Stone's absence led to shuffles that left other locations shorthanded.
On June 15, 2010, Paul Stone was placed on a one-day suspension for "insubordination". Stone requested a hearing to determine if just cause existed for his suspension. The hearing was conducted in July 2010, and the hearing office recommended that Stone's suspension be upheld. The Mayor accepted that recommendation. Stone appealed to the Civil Service Commission, which upheld Stone's suspension, stating in part:
As a matter of civil service law, common sense clearly established that the Mr. Stone had no reasonable basis to believe that his situation was truly an emergency. Mr. Stone testified that he was determined all along to attend the Jehovah'ss Witnesses Convention on May 28, 2010. He had made financial commitments that he did not want to forfeit. He testified that he was reminded of the emergency day provision in his contract by Mr. Germano, however Mr. Germano has no specific memory of discussing the emergency day. It is also not credible that Mr. Stone was cleared to take the day off by his supervisor so long as he found another employee to take his shift, even if that employee was already scheduled and expected to work elsewhere. Scheduling and staffing is the prerogative of management; it is not within Mr. Stone's rights to exercise his own personal judgment about such staffing issues. Given his prior disciplinary record, Mr. Stone should have known the rules by which he was expected to abide. The plain truth of the matter is that, having failed to take advantage of his seniority rights in a timely manner, which would have given him the time off, Mr. Stone made his own unilateral decision to absent himself without regard to the consequences. The substantial evidence established that he had known all along that he would do so. His attempt to rely on the emergency day rule was nothing more than a post hoc attempt to find some justification for an otherwise pre-determined decision. The Commission cannot find that the one day suspension meted out for this behavior in unjustified. ... ...
... Mr. Stone's claim to religious accommodation is likely to founder on the issue of undue hardship. Because of the popularity of that weekend, and the late time he submitted his request, other custodians had received permission to be away. Mr. Stone's request would have placed the school department below safe and proper staffing levels. As such, the dates that Mr. Stone requested were not available when he submitted the form, given that there were already twelve (12) custodians scheduled to be away on vacation. The City of Lynn, in conjunction with Local 1736, decided on the maximum number of employees out on vacation based on the number below which they would be understaffed and unable to fulfill their duties fully in all locations. ... Mr. Stone had a reasonable time under the terms of his employment rights in which to notify his employer of his need for days off in such a way as to have avoided the undue hardship he created. It would constitute an undue burden to require the school department to allow Mr. Stone a day off at the last minute. ... The City of Lynn did not discriminate against Mr. Stone, as it could not allow him the vacation day without following normal procedure which would have been an undue burden on their ability to service their buildings and a potential violation of the collective bargaining rights of others. Mr. Stone's dilemma was entirely of his own making and was due solely to Mr. Stone's tardiness in filing his vacation request in accordance with the reasonably established practice in the school department of which he was well aware.
In sum, based on his testimony that he had resolved to take the day off anyway, Mr. Stone did not reasonably believe that May 28, 2010 was an emergency. The City of Lynn was justified to consider his claim that the day in question was an emergency to be insubordinate behavior, and, given his previous disciplinary reprimands, a one (1) day suspension is appropriate.
This CSC decision noted that there was a second WatchTower District Convention at the same location on the very next weekend. Thus, Paul Stone could have worked Friday, May 28, and attended the same program on Friday, June 4, which had been approved as a vacation day. However, Paul Stone argued that "members of a specific congregation only attend their assigned convention". The CSC accepted that untruth as a fact, and then went on to declare attendance at WatchTower District Conventions to be "a required religious practice", and then even went one step further and declared attendance on the exact dates their congregation was assigned by the WatchTower Society to also be "a required religious practice" -- thus negating the possibility that Stone could have avoided all this drama by simply attending the assigned Convention on Saturday and Sunday, May 29 and 30, and then attending the Friday program the very next weekend, on June 4.
This editor was reared as a fourth generation JW, and attended WatchTower District Conventions from the 1960s through the 1990s. I still occasionally converse with active JW family members regarding their displeasure with the locations and dates of WatchTower District Conventions to which their congregations are assigned. To the best of my knowledge, the WatchTower Society has never declared attendance at the WatchTower District Convention to be REQUIRED. Yes, attendance is highly, highly recommended, but attendance has never been "mandatory" -- unless an individual JW was offered and accepted some specific responsibility or duty at that Convention. With regard to attendance at a specific Convention, again, attendance at the assigned Convention site is highly, highly recommended by the WatchTower Society (for obvious planning reasons), but to the best of my knowledge, the WatchTower Society has never REQUIRED its members to only attend the Convention site assigned to their congregation. The WatchTower Society has always consider attendance at a different Convention site to be preferable to not attending at all. Over the decades, this editor has known and heard of numerous JWs choosing to attend WatchTower District Conventions at locations other than the one to which their congregation was assigned by the WatchTower Society -- for any number of reasons, including the inability to get vacation time from their employer. Readers should note that this STONE case is not an isolated instance of JW Employees claiming this falsity. In fact, this falsity is claimed in the majority of similar cases. The problem for Employers is that they are at the mercy of the WatchTower Society and Jehovah's Witnesses to disprove this claim made by their JW Employee. Good luck getting the WatchTower Society, or another JW, to dispute the word of your JW Employee on any issue.
E.E.O.C. v. OZARKS ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE is an ongoing 2012 Arkansas case which involves a 44 year-old Fayetteville female Jehovah's Witness named Julia Solis. Julia Solis worked as a Call Center CSR for the Coop, which is a Not-For-Profit entity which provides electricity to homes and farms in rural Arkansas and Oklahoma. The EEOC lawsuit alleges that the Coop denied Solis' request for one day off in order to attend a one-day WatchTower convention, and thereafter fired Solis after she took off the day anyway. The EEOC seeks compensatory damages for Julia Solis, plus punitive damages to teach this Not-For-Profit a lesson.
MARCH 2013 UPDATE: Ozarks Electric Coop settled the lawsuit in March 2013 by paying Julia Solis $95,000.00, and agreeing to multiple procedural demands from the EEOC.
E.E.O.C. v. WHITEHALL HEALTHCARE CENTER was a 2011-12 Michigan federal court case. In December 2011, on behalf of an Ann Arbor, Michigan Jehovah's Witness female Certified Nursing Assistant, named Bekki Heyes, the EEOC filed a federal lawsuit against Whitehall Healthcare Center alleging that the Ann Arbor nursing home had unlawfully fired the Jehovah's Witness after Bekki Heyes refused to work one single Sunday in July 2010. Bekki Heyes had requested not to be scheduled to work on Wednesdays and Sundays, so that Heyes could attend Wednesday night and Sunday morning services at her local Ann Arbor Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, AND GO DOOR-TO-DOOR IN "FIELD SERVICE", which is something any JW can do whenever they have available time. Rather than fight the lawsuit, WhiteHall settled the lawsuit with a payment of $35,000.00, and the standard EEOC agreement for Whitehall to train its employees on how Whitehall must accomodate their religious practices, etc.
FIELDS v. RAINBOW REHABILITATION CENTER was a 2009-11 Michigan federal court case which involves the 2009 WatchTower Meeting schedule change. Leonardo Jose Fields, a Jehovah's Witness, began working as a Rehabilitation Assistant at Rainbow in 1990. Rainbow provides rehabilitation services to individuals with neurological impairment. In 1994, Leonardo J. Fields requested that he not be scheduled to work on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays as an accommodation for WatchTower neetings on those days. Fields also needed those days off to care for his son from a previous marriage, as those were the days that he had custody of the child. Rainbow accommodated Fields' request until June 2008.
In November 2007, Leonardo Fields filed an internal grievance letter complaining that on several occasions employees were not there to relieve him when his shift ended, thereby requiring Fields to stay beyond his scheduled shift. Fields filed this grievance in response to his being disciplined for failing on November 17, 2007 to stay until appropriate staffing arrived, and leaving the facility without permission from his supervisor. Fields received a 2-day disciplinary suspension and a final written warning as a result of his actions. In his grievance, Fields indicated that after waiting an hour and a half for someone to relieve him, he had to leave to be home to receive his son. In response to his grievance, a review board reduced Fields's suspension to one day, but retained the final written warning.
In fact, Rainbow had been experiencing multiple scheduling problems as multiple employees were being tardy or absent, and/or not willing to work weekends. To help solve the problem, Rainbow instituted a new scheduling policy which required all employees to work their fair share of weekend days. Fields was scheduled to work one Sunday in June 2008, and another Sunday in July 2008. Fields swapped shifts with a co-worker in June, but needed management's assistance for a swap in July. Despite its scheduling problems, Rainbow never again scheduled Fields to work on an "accommodated day".
However, in August 2008, Rainbow sent Fields a memo advising Fields that he was required to work his his scheduled shifts, including his fair share of weekends. Rainbow further advised Leonardo Fields: "You can make schedule change requests, and Rainbow will determine if your request can be accommodated, but you may not dictate to us what your schedule will be."
In November 2008, Leonardo Fields "prematurely" requested that Rainbow add "Wednesdays" to his list of accomodated days, because the WatchTower meetings being held on Tuesdays and Thursdays were going to be consolidated and moved to Wednesdays starting January 2009. However, it is not certain that Fields told Rainbow that this was a future event, nor certain that Fields told Rainbow that WatchTower meetings no longer would be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
On December 23, 2008, Fields received a disciplinary suspension of three days, and a Last and Final written warning for failing to properly supervise a client assigned to him by leaving the client behind at the facility with no supervision. On January 19, 2009, due to Fields' failure to attend a mandatory CPR/FA class on January 13, 2009, Plaintiff was issued a Last and Final written warning with a suspension until Fields completed his recertification training requirements. Although January 13 was a Tuesday -- one of Fields' accommodated days -- he had selected the date of the class. In a subsequent discussion with Supervisor, Fields acknowledged that he was aware of the meeting but that he got stuck with his son at school.
Leonardo Fields also failed to attend a mandatory staff meeting on January 27, 2009 -- a Thursday. Rainbow's policy required the rehabilitation assistant to inform their supervisor prior to the meeting or training session, and an alternative one-on-one session was arranged. Previously, Fields had arranged one-on-one meetings on several occasions when he was unable to attend a monthly meeting, or scheduled certification or training. On a few previous occasions, Fields had even attended monthly meetings even when they occurred on his "accommodated days".
As a result of Fields' failure to attend the January 27, 2009 staff meeting, and his prior policy violations, Rainbow fired Fields on February 24, 2009. In January 2010, Fields filed this federal lawsuit alleging that Rainbow violated Title VII by failing to accommodate his religious beliefs, and by retaliating against him for filing an internal grievance in 2007. Rainbow moved for summary judgment, and such was granted by the USDC in June 2011, stating in part:
... Viewing the evidence presented in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, this Court agrees that Plaintiff fails to present evidence to raise a genuine issue of fact as to whether Defendants discharged or disciplined him for failing to comply with employment requirement(s) that conflicted with his religious beliefs.
With respect to Defendants' discipline of Plaintiff on January 19, 2009, while the CPR/FA training that Plaintiff failed to attend was scheduled on one of Plaintiff's requested days off, he jointly chose that date with [supervisor]. Moreover, in subsequent communications with [supervisor], Plaintiff did not claim that he failed to attend the training due to a conflict with his religious beliefs. Instead, he indicated that he failed to attend because he had been stuck at school with his son.
Defendants did not terminate Plaintiff simply for failing to attend the January 27, 2009 staff meeting which occurred on one of Plaintiff's accommodation days. Rather Defendants terminated Plaintiff because he failed to attend the meeting and failed to contact [supervisor] and arrange alternative one-one-one training. The ability to arrange one-on-one training as an alternative to attending meetings scheduled on one of his accommodated days means, in this Court view, that Plaintiff's religious beliefs did not conflict with an employment requirement. However, even if Plaintiff established a prima case of discrimination, the evidence shows that Defendants in fact accommodated Plaintiff's religious beliefs throughout his employment by not scheduling him on the three and then four days each week that he sought off, allowing him to trade shifts when he was scheduled (whether intentionally or unintentionally) on one of his accommodation days, and permitting him to arrange a one-on-one meeting or training session when such meetings or sessions were scheduled on his accommodation days.
Plaintiff argues that Defendants should not have scheduled staff meetings and training and certification sessions on days that they knew were his accommodation days. In this Court's view, however, it is not reasonable to expect an employer to schedule staff meetings to avoid one employee's accommodated days, particularly where the employee is not able to work four of seven days per week and one of the three days the employee is able to work is a Saturday when the employer already has difficulty getting employers to work. Moreover, Defendants establish that Plaintiff attended meetings and training sessions in the past despite the fact that they were held on one of his accommodated days. Finally, Defendants offered Plaintiff a reasonable alternative to attending those meetings and sessions on his accommodation days, as well as when he was scheduled to work on one of those days, in that they allowed him to arrange alternative one-on-one meetings and/or sessions and to trade shifts with other employees. ... ... ...
Plaintiff claims that Defendants retaliated against him for submitting his November 2007 internal grievance when they scheduled him to work shifts on Sunday, June 29, and Sunday, July 6, 2008, and scheduled staff meetings on the days he requested to not work due to his religious beliefs. With respect to the Sunday shifts, Plaintiff did not work those shifts as he was able to trade them with other employees. The Court therefore does not believe that he suffered an adverse employment action. Even if he did, however, Plaintiff offers no evidence to establish a causal connection between his internal grievance letter and his two scheduled Sunday shifts. While Plaintiff was disciplined for not attending the staff meeting and training session scheduled on his accommodated days, he likewise presents no evidence suggesting a causal connection between the scheduling of the meeting and session and his grievance more than a year earlier. In short, Plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie claim of retaliation.
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