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 the 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 explanatory paragraphs because non-JW readers need to understand the circumstances under which the pre-2009 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.
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.
PATRICK v. IH STERILE SERVICES was a 2011 British case which is included here because English employment law is very similar to American employment law, and we believe this fact situation would have been decided the same under U.S. law.
Patrick, a Jehovah's Witness, began employment with IH Sterile Services as a "sterile technician" in August 2010. At the time of Patrick's employment, IH Sterile Services employed "sterile technicians" under three different circumstances. Eleven employees already worked under contracts which provided for fixed hours, Mondays through Fridays. Ten employees, including Patrick, were contracted to work flexible hours and shifts as needed by the company. The company also used Temp Agency employees to fill in any gaps, especially on weekends.
At the time that Patrick was employed, he informed the company that he was a Jehovah's Witness, and that he would not work the Thursday evening shift nor any shifts on Sundays due to having religious "meetings" and "field service" on those days. The company agreed that it would "accommodate" Patrick's religious needs. However, four months later, in December 2010, the company decided to stop using Temp agency employees due to cost and quality issues. On December 20, 2010, Patrick was given a letter informing him that as part of the new scheduling requirements he would be expected to work according to a schedule rotation, and that his hours were subject to change. The same day, he was informed verbally that he would be expected to work weekends starting in 2011, including every other Sunday. Patrick protested that he was a Jehovah's Witness, and was required to attend religious services every Sunday. In early January 2011, Patrick's supervisor had a three-hours long meeting with Patrick, during which Patrick maintained that he was unable to work any shift on any Sunday.
The company tried to establish a flexible arrangement with Patrick and other employees. One of Patrick's co-workers attended religious services on Saturday afternoons, and that co-worker agreed to work Saturday mornings. The company also set aside a storeroom to act as a prayer room for employees who wished to pray during the week.
Patrick was scheduled to work on Sunday, January 9, 2011, but ask for and received vacation time for that Sunday. On Tuesday, January 11, Patrick approached his female supervisor to once again make his case that he would not work on Sundays. Patrick allegedly attempted to give her some WatchTower literature which supposedly indicated Patrick's inability to work on Sundays, but Patrick allegedly did so in such an aggressive fashion that she thought that the literature had been thrown at her, resulting in the literature falling to the ground and her refusing to pick it up. Patrick apparently retrieved his literature and followed that supervisor to her office, where Patrick closed the door, and took a seat in a chair which he allegedly positioned in an intimidating fashion. When Patrick began to complain very loudly, the supervisor asked Patrick to leave her office. When Patrick rose to leave, his chair went crashing to the floor.
On January 24, Patrick was terminated for failing to complete his probation period, despite his technically not having a probation period. However, Patrick's appeal of his termination for failing to complete his probation period failed, so Patrick followed up with this claim of direct and indirect religious discrimination against his former employer. The Employment Tribunal dismissed Patrick's claim of religious discrimination.
The Employment Tribunal ruled that all employees working under flexible contracts were required to work some shift on some Sundays, and that Patrick had been treated the same as everyone else. Although a special arrangement had been made for the co-worker who attended religious services on Saturday afternoons, his situation was not analogous to that of Patrick given that Patrick had not indicated that he was willing to work any shift on Sundays. The tribunal also ruled that the company could justify requiring Patrick to work some shift on some Sundays. The company's contractual obligation to provide sterile laboratory services to its customers on Sundays was a legitimate aim, and dividing the obligation to work on Sundays equally amongst all employees with flexible work contracts was a proportionate means of achieving that aim. The tribunal did not think that it was appropriate to exempt an employee who wished to attend religious services on Sundays from the obligation to work some shift on Sundays, provided that the employer treated its employees equally.
The tribunal also ruled that the reason for Patrick's dismissal was, in part, his conduct on January 11, 2011, which Patrick's female supervisor was entitled to view as "hostile and aggressive". Patrick's attendance record was also partial reason for his dismissal. In his five months with the company, Patrick had taken 15 days of sick leave, and he had been late 14 times.
RINELL READUS v. TERMINIX was a 2007-08 Illinois federal discrimination court case which involved an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Rinell Readus. Readus was employed in May 2002 by Terminix in Illinois. In May 2004, Terminix granted Readus's request to transfer to Orlando, Florida. There, Readus was told that he failed the company's test to enter their Branch Manager's Training Program -- a fact that Readus questions. Readus resigned in November 2004, but was re-hired in Illinois in April 2005. Readus was soon promoted to Service Manager. Thereafter, Readus began making inquiries about again testing for the Branch Manager's Training Program, but was not given the opportunity. In February 2007, Readus filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the E.E.O.C.
The EEOC issued a Right-To-Sue letter in October 2007, and Readus filed this federal lawsuit in January 2008. Rinell Readus alleged multiple discriminations based on his African-American race, plus religious discrimination based on his Jehovah's Witness religion. Specifically, Readus alleged that he was forced to miss multiple religious services because he was required to work excessive overtime by supervisors despite the fact that he had informed those supervisors with his meeting times. Terminix answered the lawsuit denying all allegations of discrimination. Outcome unknown.
BERRY v. MEADWESTVACO PACKAGING was a 2007-2011 Alabama federal court case which involved a Jehovah's Witness Employee named Thomas Berry. Berry was a resident of Georgia, who attended the Lagrange Georgia Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. When Tom Berry interviewed for the position of gluing machine operator with Meadwestvaco in 2005, he frankly told the interviewers that he was a devout Jehovah's Witness, and that he would not work during WatchTower meetings (then two weeknights and Sunday), nor during the three annual WatchTower Conventions. Since the operator position's hours were 7:00AM to 3:00PM, Monday through Friday, Berry was offered the position, and he accepted.
In March 2007, the operator position hours were changed to 12 hour shifts of 7-7, with days rotating differently each week. Due to Berry's low seniority, he was assigned to the nighttime 7:00PM to 7:00AM shift. Berry's new work schedule was going to conflict with at least one of Berry's weeknight WatchTower meetings, so, prior to the start of the new schedule, Berry attempted to get one of the daytime 7:00AM-7:00PM operators to switch with him. None of Berry's co-workers wanted his night shift. However, an "assistant operator" did agree to switch with Berry. When Berry confronted his supervisor with his problem, Berry was told that it was company policy that "assistant operators" could fill in for operators only during emergency situations, and that Berry could use his vacation time whenever his work schedule conflicted with his WatchTower meetings.
Berry's requests for vacation time were generally granted, but on the scattered occasions when they were not, Berry did not come in to work. This resulted in accumulation of company attendance policy violations, which Berry knew would eventually result in his termination. Berry scheduled a meeting with his supervisor in July 2007 to discuss the matter, but when the supervisor's previous meeting went into Berry's time, Berry left without meeting with the supervisor. Shortly thereafter, Berry resigned without talking with anyone at Meadwestvaco.
Three weeks later, Thomas Berry filed a charge of discrimination with the E.E.O.C., who eventually issued Berry a Notice of Right To Sue letter. In January 2010, Berry filed his own federal lawsuit alleging that MeadWestvaco constructively discharged him, while failing to accommodate his religious beliefs, in violation of Title VII. In March 2011, the USDC granted Meadwestvaco's motion for summary judgment, stating in part:
To satisfy its burden of reasonable accommodation, an employer must show that the employee was afforded a reasonable accommodation, or that the employer could not reasonably accommodate the employee "'without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business.'" ... ...
First, ... the court agrees with MeadWestvaco that substituting an assistant operator for an operator on a regular basis constitutes an undue hardship. As previously stated, an undue hardship is "any act that would require an employer to bear greater than a 'de minimis cost' in accommodating an employee's religious beliefs." ... When an employer is required to replace a trained worker with an untrained one, and the employer presents evidence that this replacement will cause inefficiencies and product quality problems, that is more than a de minimis cost. ...
Second, Berry argues that MeadWestvaco should have altered the work schedules of its employees to cover his shift. For example, Berry noted that Miller stated in his testimony, hypothetically, that MeadWestvaco could have had (1) "lead men" cover Berry's shift; (2) other operators occasionally "stay over" the length of their shift. ...
This is an undue hardship. The Supreme Court in Hardison explicitly stated that an employer does not have to treat other employees differently merely to satisfy the religious objections of a single employee. ... By forcing "lead men" to perform extra work, or by forcing other employees to work longer hours, MeadWestvaco would be discriminating in favor of Berry and against his co-workers. ...
Third, Berry suggests that MeadWestvaco could have "seen about some kind of a shift modification." ... However, the Hardison court emphasized that it is an undue hardship to force an employer to change the way it schedules its employees merely to satisfy the needs of an employee with a religious objection to the schedule. ...
Fourth, Berry argues that MeadWestvaco should have asked Foster to agree to a shift swap with Berry, rather than forcing Foster to work extra hours during the days Berry took vacation. ... Forcing unwilling employees to swap shifts with an employee who has a religious objection to the schedule is not required by Title VII. ...
VALLEJO v. FOUR SEASONS SOLAR PRODUCTS was a 2006-11 New York federal court case. A Jehovah's Witness named Carl Vallejo was hired as a salesperson by Four Seasons at its Holbrook, New York company-owned retail outlet, in January 2003. Four Seasons manufactures and sells sunrooms via direct sales, so its salespersons are expected to call on perspective customers during evening hours and on weekends. Four Seasons allowed Carl Vallejo to take off two evenings during the week, and Sundays, to accommodate his WatchTower meetings.
During 2004, Vallejo took 18 vacation days, although he was only entitled to 14 days. Without providing the requisite 14-day notice, Vallejo advised Supervisor that he wanted to take off September 11, 2004. According to Supervisor, Vallejo failed to mention that this was to observe a religious requirement (probably the WatchTower one-day "Special Assembly Day). Citing the 14 day advance notice rule, Supervisor refused to allow the vacation day, prompting Vallejo to announce that he would take off that day just the same. In response, Supervisor suspended Vallejo's customer leads for 10 days.
On January 31, 2005, without the requisite 14-day notice, Vallejo advised Four Seasons that he would take the next week off so that he could attend a real estate investment training course. In the face of warnings that such a decision could cost him his job, Vallejo took the vacation time without authorization. Thereafter, Vallejo absented himself from work for four months.
Around July 2005, Store Manager allowed Vallejo to work a few leads. When Vallejo requested more, Store Manager asked Vallejo when he was going to come back full-time. Vallejo neither answered the Store Manager's direct question, nor his email follow-up. After not having heard from Carl Vallejo in nearly four months, and having covered Vallejo with health insurance the entire time, Four Seasons formally terminated Vallejo in October 2005.
In April 2006, Vallejo filed an administrative complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights charging Four Seasons with unlawful discriminatory practice in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law. The DHR subsequently dismissed this complaint for want of probable cause. In July 2007, Vallejo filed a federal lawsuit alleging (1) disparate treatment; (2) failure to accommodate; and (3) retaliation, in violation of Title VII and New York state law. In March 2011, the USDC granted Four Seasons motion for summary judgment -- for obvious reasons.
JOHNSON v. AT&T was a 2008-11 Texas state court case which involved an extremely devoted Jehovah's Witness, named Rodney L. Johnson, whom I'm guessing holds the position of "Ministerial Servant" (deacon) in the Elam, Texas Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Rodney Johnson began working for AT&T in 1996. In 2006, Johnson began working in the Billing Department as a Supervisor. Johnson was terminated in May 2008 -- allegedly due to ongoing performance issues. In October 2008, Johnson filed with E.E.O.C. a complaint in which he alleged religious discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation. Details thereafter are uncertain, but around January 2010, a state rather than federal lawsuit was filed, but was dismissed on AT&T's motion for summary judgment. Johnson's motion for a new trial was granted in June 2010, but again was dismissed on AT&T's motion for summary judgment. In May 2011, Johnson filed a pro se appeal from which the details of this summary are painfully extracted. Outcome unknown.
Rodney L. Johnson's allegation of religious discrimination apparently centers around one single instance in which he had to work late on a "meeting night". While Johnson alleges possible elements of a hostile work environment, he apparently makes no legal claim of such. Johnson alleges that, in April 2007, his supervisor "began displaying disdain for Rodney's religious beliefs and requested that he not proselytize on the job." (How dare she!!!) The supervisor allegedly stated to Johnson, "Jehovah's Witnesses better not knock on my door!"
On Thursday, April 3, 2008, a billing problem arose later in the day, and Johnson's supervisor directed him to do certain things toward solving that problem. Knowing that such would require him to work late and miss part or all of a Kingdom Hall "meeting' that night, Johnson asked supervisor if it would be okay to have the responsible underling to stay late and help him. Supervisor denied his request despite knowing that Thursday was one of Johnson's "meeting nights". However, supervisor did allow Rodney Johnson to immediately cell-phone Elder Dan Eggers of the Elam Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses to let Dan Eggers know that Johnson would not be able to be the reader that evening at the "book study". (Hopefully, there was some other attendee that evening who knew how to read outloud the WatchTower publication's fourth grade level English.) Supervisor later impliedly complimented Johnson on his devotion to his WatchTower meetings, and then told Johnson that he needed to "apply that same principle to this job" -- for which Johnson took offense, and complained about in his legal filings.
DONALD FAISON v. LEONARD STREET LLC was a 2008-09 New York City federal court case. Donald Faison was a Jehovah's Witness who worked as a "line cook" at defendant's NYC restaurant. Don Faison quit his job, and thereafter filed a federal discrimination lawsuit alleging constructive discharge due to a hostile work environment, retaliation, and religious discrimination due to both failure to accomodate and disparate treatment. In his lawsuit, Donald Faison alleged that the Chef yelled, screamed, and occasionally threw kitchen items, and due to such, Faison felt unsafe. Faison further alleged that at the time of his hiring that he had informed the defendant that he was a Jehovah's Witness, and would need certain times off work to attend WatchTower meetings and conventions, and that defendant's management agreed to allow Faison time off. Faison claimed that once hired that the Chef refused to grant requested time off to attend a two-day WatchTower Circuit Assembly.
On defendant's motion for summary dismissal, the USDC dismissed Donald Faison's claims alleging constructive discharge due to a hostile work environment and retaliation, but allowed Faison's claims alleging religious discrimination due to both failure to accomodate and disparate treatment. The court ruled that the Chef's yelling, screaming, and occasionally throwing kitchen items were not directed only at Faison, and were not due to Faison's religous beliefs or practices. However, the court believed there was evidence that the Chef's denial of time off to attend the WatchTower convention, and the Chef's alleged statement to Faison that Faison had to choose between his job and his religion, may have amounted to religious discrimination. Outcome unknown. Case may have been settled after this ruling.
SANDRA S. ALLISON v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE was a 1999-2004 federal employee EEOC decision which involved an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Sandra S. Allison. In September 1999, Sandra Allison physically assaulted her Supervisor after that Supervisor interrupted Allison while she was on the telephone. Allison was eventually terminated effective January 2000. Allison appealed her termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which ultimately affirmed her termination.
Interestingly, as a defense to her having physically assaulted her Supervisor, Allison alleged that the Department of Justice had engendered a hostile work environment over the previous months (summer) by cancelling an approved leave; disapproval of several of Allison's leave requests; placement of Allison on leave restrictions; plus other issues.
The MSPB ultimately affirmed Allison's termination. In the meantime, Sandra Allison also filed an EEO complaint alleging that, in addition to engendering a hostile work environment, the DOJ had also discriminated against her on the basis of her African-American race, her sex, her Jehovah's Witness religion, an unspecified mental disability, and her age. The EEOC Administrative Judge dismissed Allison's complaint on the ground of res judicata -- ruling that Allison should have raised the various discrimination claims in her MSPB case. On appeal, ruling affirmed by EEOC. Reconsideration denied by EEOC.
SHELBY DAWSON v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE was a 1999-2002 USPS employee EEOC decision which involved a male African-American Jehovah's Witness named Shelby Dawson, who worked at a Memphis, Tennessee mail facility. In latter 1999, Dawson requested a work schedule change that would give him every Sunday off so that he could attend his local Kingdom Hall. Dawson's request was denied. Thereafter, Dawson filed an EEO complaint alleging religious discrimination. This case was settled when Dawson agreed to drop the complaint in exchange for USPS's agreement to give Dawson first priority whenever management decided to permit an employee to receive every Sunday off.
SHELBY DAWSON v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE was a 2002-2009 USPS employee EEOC decision which involved a male African-American Jehovah's Witness named Shelby Dawson, who worked at a Memphis, Tennessee mail facility. In 2002, Dawson filed an EEO complaint alleging that the settlement agreement had been breached by USPS. USPS ruled against Dawson, but on appeal, EEOC remanded. In 2006, the Office of Federal Operations ruled for Dawson that a breach had occurred, and ordered Dawson's complaint reopened. In 2008, an EEOC Administrative Judge ruled against Dawson, and in 2009, the EEOC affirmed. Noteworthy in this extended case is the fact that USPS never ever implemented a work schedule change that permitted any employee to be given Sundays off on a permanent basis. Incidents characterized as breaches by Dawson were found to be temporary, employees holding different positions, etc. Dawson was occasionally permitted off on sporatic Sundays just as other similarly situated employees were permitted such via special request.
TERRA J. SINKEVICIUS v. DePAUL UNIVERSITY was a 2008-2010 Illinois Human Rights Commission decision. An African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Terra Sinkevicius, was initially hired by DePaul University Library as a Student Assistant, in 1999. Sinkevicius was permitted to work a "flexible schedule" to accommodate her WatchTower meetings and field service (door-knocking).
In 2004, Terra Sinkevicius was promoted to Librarian Assistant III, and was assigned dual roles as Desk Supervisor and Reserves Supervisor. In 2006, Sinkevicius was verbally counseled three times regarding her inability to meet the Library’s expectations. In February 2007, the Employer issued Sinkevicius a written counseling for failing to meet the Library’s expectations for customer service. In June 2007, Sinkevicius filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC against the Library. In October 2007, the Library determined Sinkevicius was unable to successfully perform as both Reserves Supervisor and Desk Supervisor, so eliminated the Reserves Supervisor duties from Sinkevicius's duties. Sinkevicius was left with fewer work responsibilities, but her salary and benefits remained the same.
On December 4, 2007, while working on the "flexible schedule" intended to accomodate her WatchTower religious practices, Terra Sinkevicius was involved in an altercation with the Evening Desk Supervisor. A DePaul University Public Safety Officer had to physically separate Sinkevicius and the Evening Desk Supervisor. In order to minimize future contact between Sinkevicius and the Evening Desk Supervisor, Sinkevicius was notified that as of February 6, 2008, she would be required to work a regular schedule. The Library still accommodated Sinkevicius’s religious practices by allowing Sinkevicius to leave work when necessary to meet her religious obligations. However, Sinkevicius was required to make up any lost time using vacation time and floating holidays.
On February 14, 2008, Terra J. Sinkevicius filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Human Rights Commission in which she alleged that, in October 2007, that DePaul University demoted her because of her African-American race, and in retaliation for having filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and that the Library had failed to accommodate her Jehovah Witness religion in violation of Illinois state law. In July 2009, the Illinois Human Rights Commission dismissed Sinkevicius's case for Lack of Substantial Evidence. On appeal, in March 2010, a Commission Tribunal sustained the dismissal, stating that Sinkevicius had presented no substantial evidence that she had been demoted because she was African-American , nor was there is any substantial evidence that the Employer failed to accommodate Sinkevicius’s religion.The Tribunal stated, in part:
The Employer began documenting the Petitioner’s poor performance in her dual roles in August 2006. The Petitioner had received counseling for her poor performance on at least four separate occasions before the Employer decided to relieve the Petitioner of half of her duties. ... The evidence shows that prior to February 6, 2008, the Employer had accommodated the Petitioner in the practice of her religion by allowing her to work a flexible schedule. The evidence shows the Employer discontinued the flexible schedule as of February 6, 2008, in order to minimize the Petitioner’s contact with the Evening Desk Supervisor ... .
CHARLES F. MILLER v. HSBC FINANCE CORP was a 2007-10 South Carolina court case. Charles F. Miller, alias John Miller, is a Jehovah's Witness living in Elgin, South Carolina. Miller began working as a mortgage/loan officer for a company eventually purchased by HSBC, in Columbia, SC, in 1999. HSBC had been Miller's employer since 2004.
In 2006, the approximately 67 years-old Miller receive a below average performance rating due to his failing to meet a variety of production goals. The first few months of 2007 did not go much better, and Miller was facing possible termination due to poor performance. During 2007, employees at Miller's work location were required to work late hours on three weekday evenings of Mondays through Thursdays. Miller refused to work Monday and Thursday evenings due to WatchTower meetings on those nights. At a meeting with the HSBC District Manager and Office Manager in mid May 2007, during which all of the above was discussed, Miller left with the impression that he had been terminated because he had refused to work late on Mondays and Thursdays, so Miller did not return to work. HSBC denied such, and alleged job abandonment. However, Miller's termination was coded as "inability to perform", and he was paid a severance of $4772.50.
In June 2007, Miller filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC and the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission alleging both religious discrimination and age discrimination. EEOC issued a Right To Sue Letter in March 2008, and this federal lawsuit followed. In August 2009, the USDC granted HSBC's motion for summary judgment on Miller's claim of age discrimination, but denied such on the claim of religious discrimination. In a January 2010 jury trial, John Miller won on the issue of failure to accommodate his religious obligations, but lost on his claim of religious discrimination. Miller was awarded $66,650.82 for back pay, $10,130.08 for prejudgment interest, $67,094.10 for attorney's fees, and $3708.02 for expenses.
MAULDIN v. HALLIBURTON is an ongoing 2008 Texas federal court case. In July 2008, an African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Kevin Mauldin, filed a federal lawsuit in which he alleged that Halliburton-Baroid, of Tyler, Texas, had discriminated against him on the basis of both his African-American race, and his Jehovah's Witnesses religion, during the 15 months he was employed from June 2006 until September 2007. Kevin Mauldin alleges that he was wrongfully fired "on trumped-up false charges that he was trying to be paid for work he didn't do."
Interestingly, Mauldin's lawsuit complains that he was allegedly discriminated against in that he was forced to work rather than attend religious meetings at his Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, but at the same time the lawsuit complains that Mauldin lost overtime pay because his hours as a "truck driver" were reduced from 15 hours per day to 12 hours per day. Mauldin alleges that he was subjected to "racial harassment and offensive work conditions." The lawsuit claims, "Offensive racial jokes were told in [Mauldin's] presence by his manager and others. The manager also displayed a Confederate flag on his desk, which plaintiff found offensive."
Assuming, as the district court did, that Bush established a prima facie case of discrimination based on a failure to accommodate religious beliefs, we conclude that summary judgment was proper because Regis offered a reasonable accommodation.
The phrase "reasonable accommodation" is not defined and turns on the facts and circumstances of the case. ... The Supreme Court has stated that compliance with Title VII does not require an employer to give an employee a choice among several accommodations; nor is the employer required to demonstrate that alternative accommodations proposed by the employee constitute undue hardship. ...
Here, Regis offered Bush a reasonable accommodation. When it required her to cover shifts every other Sunday, it started the shift after her religious services had concluded. And as soon as the services changed times, Regis gave Bush Sundays off to accommodate the services. In addition, Regis permitted Bush to swap shifts to allow her to attend religious conventions. ...
Bush argues that the Sunday shift prevented her from doing field service with her family, which constituted a bona fide religious belief. The record, however, indicates that field service was not required to be performed on Sundays; rather, that was the day Bush and her family wished to perform field service. An employee has a duty to make a good faith attempt to accommodate her religious needs through means offered by the employer. ... In this case, it does not appear that Bush made any such effort. ... ...
Upon review, we conclude that the district court properly granted summary judgment on this [retaliation] claim because Bush failed to establish that she suffered an adverse action. None of the instances Bush identified rise to the level of an adverse action because none would have discouraged a reasonable employee from making the discrimination charge. In fact, according to the evidence presented, none of these instances deterred Bush from filing her complaint.
Even if Bush established a prima facie case, Regis proffered legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons, which Bush has not argued are a pretext for discrimination. ...
"We state initially that we have no question concerning the sincerity of the petitioner's religious convictions arising from his affiliation with the Jehovah's Witnesses faith. We accept as a fact his conviction that he is exhorted to study the Bible and to aid others in a fuller understanding of the truths found therein. However, we do not believe that this is the sole and complete answer to the issue presented. Perhaps the most recent leading case in this regard is Sherbert vs. Verner, 374 U.S. 398. At Page 406, the court expresses the constitutional limitation as follows:
'... to condition the availability of benefits upon this appellant's unwillingness to violate a cardinal principle of her religious faith effectively penalizes the free exercise of her constitutional liberties.'
"This case involved the unwillingness of a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the Sabbath Day of her faith, as a result of which she was discharged. On applying for unemployment benefits, she was denied due to her unavailability for work on Saturday. In holding that the denial was unconstitutional, the court, at Page 409, said:
'Nor do we, by our decision today, declare the existence of a constitutional right to unemployment benefits on the part of all persons whose religious convictions are the cause of their unemployment. This is not a case in which an employee's religious convictions serve to make him a nonproductive member of society.'
"We do not mean to infer that such is the situation here, but we do believe that the court is saying that not all unemployment caused by an individual's religious convictions is protected constitutionally in the allowance of benefits. In the first place, the petitioner's unemployment was not caused by his religious convictions. His then employer had fully acceded to his religious needs. He quit in order to pursue his self-employment endeavor, and only when his contract terminated did he apply for benefits. Still, we are considering his religious convictions as affecting his entitlement to unemployment benefits. The authorities of which we are aware have held that the individual is protected in the observance of his Sabbath, and perhaps also in the observance of certain days considered holy in his faith. But none of the cases, to our knowledge, have gone so far as to protect the individual in the attendance of functions of the church during days other than as noted above. The petitioner admits that it is not a tenet or precept of his faith that study of the Bible must be conducted in concert on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. This is an arrangement made by the particular group with which the petitioner is affiliated and motivated for purposes of convenience. As such, it is our conclusion that it is not constitutionally protected within the authorities of which we are aware. The petitioner's restriction on his availability for work on Tuesday and Thursday evenings consequently serves to render him 'unavailable' for suitable work within the intent and meaning of RCW 50.20.010(3). However, as noted above, this is not the basis for our finding in the instant case that the petitioner has not satisfied the statutory eligibility requirements."
EEOC v. AT&T was a $1,307,597.00 2007 Arkansas federal appellate court decision that involved two Jehovah's Witness Employees, named Glenn Owen and Jose Gonzalez. The two Jehovah's Witness Employees, who just so happen to be brothers-in-law, were employed as customer service technicians at AT&T's Jonesboro, Arkansas location. Owen had worked for AT&T for 5+ years, and Gonzalez had worked for AT&T for 8+ years .
In January 2005, the two JW brothers-in-law requested time off on a Friday in July 2005, so that they could attend the annual three-day weekend WatchTower Convention. Although AT&T had "accommodated" Owen's and Gonzalez's requests in years past, AT&T declined Owen's and Gonzalez's requests in 2005. Owen and Gonzalez attended the WatchTower Convention anyway. On returning to work, both employees were initially suspended, and then fired a couple weeks later. Glenn Owen and Jose Gonzalez filed a religious discrimination claim with EEOC, which after investigation issued a letter of determination finding probable cause that both men had been denied a reasonable accommodation because of their religious beliefs. The EEOC then filed this federal lawsuit on behalf of the two JWs. In the 2007 ruling, in which AT&T's motion for summary judgment was denied, the USDC explained the conflict:
"In keeping with its 2004 agreement with the Communication Workers of America Union, the Center implemented a procedure for employees to schedule vacation time. In October or November of each year, management circulated a vacation schedule for the following year. The employees indicated on the master schedule the days or weeks that they planned to take as vacation. The employees were allowed to choose their vacation days in order of seniority. After the master schedule was complete, an employee could still ask for other days off by submitting a vacation request form. According to AT&T, during the summer months, only one technician per day could take off. If a request were made for a day that no other employee was scheduled to be off, then that request would be granted, but if a request were made for a day in which another employee was scheduled to be off, according to AT&T, the request would not be granted, though the employee requesting that day could wait to see if the senior employee who had already scheduled a vacation day changed his mind about taking that day.
"As part of practicing their faith, Owen and Gonzalez attend a yearly Jehovah's Witness convention. The dates for the convention are announced early in the year, so they are always announced after the master vacation schedule has been circulated at the Jonesboro Installation and Repair Center. Thus, Owen and Gonzalez had to make a vacation request if they wanted that time off. The 2005 convention was scheduled for July 15-17 (Friday through Sunday). The only day of concern in this case is Friday, July 15, when both men were scheduled to work. They were not scheduled to work that Saturday. Customer service technicians do not work on Sundays.
"For purposes of the summary judgment motion, AT&T concedes that before July 2005 Owen and Gonzalez submitted multiple written and verbal requests to Jacob Garrett, the manager of the Jonesboro Center, for vacation time on July 15. The men approached Garrett about the Jehovah's Witness convention and its importance on July 7 as well. Garrett said that he would let them know about it closer to July 15.
"The decision had still not been made on July 14. Gonzalez spoke with Garrett that day about the matter by telephone approximately three times. Garrett and Phillip Farley, the area manager to whom Garrett reported, were working together that day and discussed the request made by Owen and Gonzalez. Garrett also discussed the request with Marty Benz. Benz was the manager of the Walnut Ridge, Paragould, and Blytheville Centers, but he worked out of the Jonesboro office. Benz and Garrett discussed ways the situation could be handled, such as getting the employees who were scheduled for vacation time to switch with Owen and Gonzalez, or requesting help from computer service technicians from other centers, as they sometimes would do in circumstances of a heavy workload. After reviewing the workload information and considering other factors, Garrett told Owen and Gonzalez on the afternoon of July 14 that 'the forecast doesn't look good', and he would 'try to do what [he could] if the load permits'. Later that afternoon or evening, Garrett informed them that the workload would not allow them to take the day off. Because Garrett suspected they might not show up the next day, he gave each man a directive to come to work or face serious consequences. Each responded that he would not be at work. Farley contacted the local union president, who called the men to reiterate that they would face serious consequences for missing work.
"Owen and Gonzalez missed work on July 15. Farley and Garrett suspended the men after an investigatory meeting. Farley recommended to the director of Installment and Repair that the two men should be terminated. The director followed his recommendation."
Per the USCA opinion:
AT&T moved for summary judgment, arguing that, as a matter of law, Gonzalez and Owen's absence from work on July 15 caused AT&T an undue hardship, and, therefore, allowing them to take a vacation day was not a reasonable accommodation. Because Gonzalez and Owen were not at work, AT&T had to "close the clock," or stop scheduling maintenance and repairs for the same day, at 10:00 a.m., long before the preferred 2:00 p.m. closing time, and it also had to pay extra overtime to the employees working that day. The district court denied AT&T's motion for summary judgment, declaring that AT&T "failed to show that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether accommodating Owen's and Gonzalez's religious beliefs would have caused it to suffer more than a de minimis hardship." The case proceeded to trial.
In October 2007, the federal jury of 9 women and 3 men ignored AT&T's defense and decided in the favor of Owen and Gonzalez. The jury awarded Jose Gonzalez $136,000.00 in lost wages and benefits and $230,000.00 in additional damages. Glenn Owen was awarded $160,000.00 in lost wages and benefits and $230,000.00 in additional damages. On appeal, the USCA also ruled against AT&T. The EEOC and the two Jehovah's Witnesses were elated with the largest ever religious discrimination judgement in Arkansas history. By the time the judgment was paid in July 2009, after appeal was unsuccessful, AT&T ended paying a grand total of $1,307,597.00.
The following unidentified comment was posted to a Blog about this case:
I would just like to comment as I was personally involved with this case. The facts released in this document do NOT reflect the actual events. It's obvious that everyone reacts without having 100% of the facts. Having sat through the four day trial and as a tax payer, I can't believe the verdict. Nobody mentions that every professional was dismissed from the jury. Anyone holding AT&T stock was dismissed....AT&T lost before the trial began...."big company VS poor little me"! The jury was made up of unemployed, self employed, and otherwise lower income homemakers who have not a clue of the needs of a company that has to provide customer service or pay fines and penalties to the state and federal government if service measures are not met. These two employees knew upon hire that the company and the title in which they were hired required 24/7 coverage. When the work unit is covered by a collective bargaining agreement and the number of employees are already scheduled off per the contract, the needs of the company providing prompt customer service is necessary.
REGINA L. ANDERSON v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY was a 2005-2009 federal employee EEOC decision which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Regina Anderson. Gina Anderson was employed by the Internal Revenue Service in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2005, Anderson applied for and was interviewed for a higher position which required working until 8:15 PM on weekday evenings. After being offered the position, Anderson replied that she could accept only if she was allowed to attend her religious meetings (presumably on Tuesday and Thursday evenings) and a college night class (on Fridays). When Anderson was supposedly "forced" to decline the promotion, she thereafter filed an EEO complaint alleging religious discrimination. The agency dismissed Anderson's claim after a supervisor claimed that during the interview that Anderson had only mentioned the college night class and not the two WatchTower meetings, plus that Anderson had not specifically asked for a religious accomodation. The EEOC affirmed the dismissal ruling that Anderson's night class did not have to be "accommodated", thus making the religious accommodation issue moot.
REGINA L. ANDERSON v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY was a 2000-2003 federal employee EEOC decision which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Regina Anderson. Gina Anderson was employed by the Internal Revenue Service in Memphis, Tennessee. Anderson filed a formal EEO complaint alleging that she was being subjected to a hostile work environment, beginning January 2000, because of her WatchTower religion, plus discriminated against because of her disability (allergies), when the IRS failed to make a reasonable accommodation, beginning in February 2000. The IRS ruled that no discrimination had occurred with regard to Anderson's religion nor her allergies, and on appeal, the EEOC affirmed.
"... In its reply brief, defendant argues that this is not a failure-to-accommodate case because plaintiff admits 'she was never forced to work in violation of her religious beliefs and was never disciplined for missing work for religious observation'. ... Nonetheless, the court believes this case belongs in the failure-to-accommodate category because, as noted below, plaintiff alleges she was discharged for repeatedly complaining about accommodation problems."In the present case, defendant concedes that plaintiff has sincere religious beliefs which potentially conflict with employment requirements and that defendant was aware of the conflict. Specifically, plaintiff must attend church services or meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and also on Sundays until 3:00 p.m. Plaintiff disclosed this information on her employment application as well as during her pre-hire interview with the store manager. These elements of plaintiff's prima facie case are conceded. Defendant does not contend that the requested accommodation would cause defendant undue hardship."Rather, the dispute in this matter concerns the reasons for plaintiff's discharge. This is not only an element of plaintiff's prima facie case, but also the ultimate issue. While defendant argues that it discharged plaintiff for a legitimate non-discriminatory reason, plaintiff has produced evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that her accommodation requests and/or her complaints to management regarding the failure to accommodate were a motivating factor in defendant's decision to discharge her. Plaintiff testified at her deposition that her immediate supervisor, Brian Kelly, repeatedly scheduled her to work during the above-referenced times. Sometimes plaintiff went over Kelly's head and succeeded in having her scheduled changed. Other times these efforts were not successful. On other occasions Kelly scheduled plaintiff to close one night and open the next morning, including New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, with the explanation that such scheduling was the result of plaintiff's scheduling 'restrictions'. Plaintiff also testified that Kelly's treatment of her worsened when she complained to higher level management about the scheduling problems. Kelly allegedly assigned plaintiff unusually difficult tasks and forbade other employees to assist her."Defendant's stated reason for discharging plaintiff is that she violated defendant's ethics policy which prohibits employees from, among other things, '[e]ngaging in personal, financial, or business relationships with suppliers or customers'. ... According to Kelly, on March 27, 2004, plaintiff 'had just completed the how to clinic in aisle 4. She was excited and said she had 7 people participate. Then she stated she "got a job out of it."' ... Kelly viewed this is a violation of the prohibition against 'outside employment + solicitation', ... and reported the incident. The store manager, Jim Geers, interviewed plaintiff, verified that she had made the statement, and discharged her on this basis after consulting with the area human resources manager. ..."A reasonable jury might reject this explanation because Geers did not ask plaintiff what happened at the how-to clinic or whether she actually solicited or obtained work from a customer. Geers testified that the ethics policy prohibits employees from 'soliciting work or receiving work while you were on the clock doing side work'. ... He also testified that he understood, from Kelly's statement and the interview with plaintiff, that 'a customer came up to her afterwards, asked if she did painting and would she do some work for them'. ... A jury could find that Geers had no basis for believing that plaintiff had solicited work from the customer. Geers also acknowledged that he never asked plaintiff is she had actually received any work. ... In fact, plaintiff has testified that she never received any business from a customer, and that the particular customer at the how-to clinic never called her. ... Plaintiff also testified that her meeting with Geers lasted just one or two minutes, and that he was not interested in listening to her explanation regarding her 'I got a job.' comment. ... During this meeting, plaintiff says that she also asked Geers for permission to take off three days in June 2004 (approximately three months hence) in order to attend a religious convention, and that he denied this request although he had granted such permission previously during her pre-hire interview. ...
"Defendant's explanation for discharging plaintiff is further weakened by the fact that defendant's human resources manager, Mary Frankland, testified that an employee may post his/her business card on a bulletin board and tell customers, who inquire if the employee is available for hire, that 'I have posted something on the board, you should go over there'. ... According to plaintiff's testimony, she did nothing more than this at the how-to clinic."In addition to rejecting defendant's explanation, a reasonable jury might conclude that defendant was actually motivated, in whole or in part, by plaintiff's complaints regarding her supervisor's failure to accommodate her requests for time off. While there is no 'smoking gun' in this case, there is evidence suggesting that Kelly was annoyed with plaintiff's complaints. Plaintiff testified that Kelly once 'introduced me to a new vendor as the thorn in his side'."When Kelly heard plaintiff make the comment at the how-to clinic, another employee heard Kelly respond by saying, 'Good'. ... Kelly did not ask plaintiff what she meant by this comment, but he immediately reported the comment to the store's human resources manager because he wanted plaintiff to be disciplined. ... Kelly also indicated that he was not 'comfortable' with complaints plaintiff had made about him to this human resources manager."The material facts are sufficiently disputed such that the matter must be resolved by a jury. If the jury finds liability, it will be for the jury to assess damages. The court will not invade the jury's province by cutting off plaintiff's damages on the theory that she falsified her employment application. Defendant may submit evidence on this issue to the jury and request an appropriate instruction."
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