WILLIAM L. SCOTT v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE was a 2002-05 federal administrative USPS case which involved an African-American Jehovah's Witness ELDER, named William L. Scott, who was employed as a Mail Process Clerk at the main Post Office, in Compton, California. William Scott sought EEO counseling, and subsequently filed a formal complaint on June 27, 2002, alleging that he was discriminated against on the bases of his "male" sex, his Jehovah's Witness religion, and reprisal for alleged protected activity. Bill Scott lost the initial agency decision and this agency appeal. It is not known if Scott later exercised his legal right to appeal this appellate agency decision or file a federal civil court case. Here are the events which led up to Scott's claims of discrimination:
On April 27, 2002, USPS issued a Letter of Warning to William Scott based on a confrontation he had with a female Co-worker, where Scott threw his right elbow into that female Co-worker, striking her chin up to her nose. On July 11, 2002, Scott was issued an Official Discussion Letter for taking unauthorized breaks.
In August 2002, William Scott complained that a casual/temporary co-worker was sent to a two-week window training program, while he was not offered such training. The USPS investigation disclosed that Scott's duties did not include the window, nor had Scott indicated any interest in such a duty.
In September 2002, William Scott formally requested leave for one day to attend a Jehovah's Witness "Circuit Assembly" in October, and leave for one day to attend a Jehovah's Witness "Supplemental School for Christian Elders". Both requests were denied. When Scott failed to show up for work on both days, Scott was issued a Letter of Warning for the first absence, and was suspended for seven days after the second absence. Interestingly, this Appeal decision ruled that both events were "optional", stating in part:
"Under Title VII, employers are required to accommodate the religious practices of their employees unless a requested accommodation is shown to impose an undue hardship. ... In the case at hand, complainant sought leave in order to attend the Circuit Assembly and an Elder's meeting. ... We find that attendance at such a religious conference is an optional activity. One attends simply because one desires to do so. Attendance is not compelled by a person's belief in the tenets of a religion. See, e.g., Nesbitt v. United States Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 01996248 (September 19, 2000) (finding that agency was not required to provide a religious accommodation to ensure the complainant's ability to attend teaching services and choir practice because participation in these activities occurs as a desire of the participant, and must be distinguished from a church member's belief in the tenets of the religion). As such, the agency was not under an obligation to provide complainant with an accommodation to allow him to attend these events."
On November 1, 2002, Scott was placed on Emergency Off-Duty status for insubordination and failure to follow instructions. On the day in question, Scott first clocked in, and then went to the locker room. Scott's supervisor saw him and ordered him to report to his workstation. A confrontation ensued in which Scott stared at his Supervisor in a defiant manner, and made the Supervisor feel very uncomfortable. As a result of the conflict, the Supervisor told Scott to stop working, and placed Scott on Emergency Off-Duty status. Additionally, a Letter of Warning was subsequently issued for failure to follow instructions and insubordination.
On February 5, 2003, Scott was issued another Letter of Warning for failure to follow instructions and irregular attendance. The record showed that Scott did not report for duty on January 17, 18, and 25, 2003.
JESSIE MAE JACKSON v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE was a 2005-7 Illinois federal court decision which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Jessie Mae Jackson. Jessie Jackson, a mail handler for the United States Postal Service, brought suit against the Postmaster General, claiming that she was fired because she was a Jehovah's Witness. In 2006, the USDC granted summary judgment to the Postmaster General because Jackson had waited too long after she was fired to file a discrimination complaint with the Postal Service's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office, and her delay could not be excused. In 2007, the USCA affirmed.
Jessie Mae Jackson worked as a "casual" (non-career) employee at the Chicago Bulk Mail Center starting in 1997 until she was fired for poor performance on December 31, 2004. About February 1, 2005, Jackson sent a written complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor, which advised her to complain to the Postal Service in Washington, D.C. Jackson alleged that she promptly did so, but received no response. Jackson says she called USPS in May 2005 and eventually was directed to file a complaint with USPS's district office. Jackson contacted a USPS EEO counselor for the first time on May 9, 2005.
On July 6, 2005, Jackson filed a formal complaint alleging that her supervisors had discriminated against her based on her religion by denying her request to attend a Jehovah's Witness convention in 2004. Jackson alleged that her supervisor denied her request, and told her she would be fired if she attended the convention. Jackson further alleged that her supervisor and supervisor's supervisor then started to treat her poorly. Jackson further contended that four months later her supervisor had her sign papers that she believed to be routine "safety sheets," but that she later discovered was a "false [performance] evaluation", which was used to terminate her. USPS dismissed Jackson's complaint because she exceeded, by almost three months, the 45-day time limit for initiating contact with an EEO counselor.
Jackson then brought suit in federal court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Jackson alleged that while employed with USPS that she was never informed of her "EEO rights". Jackson claimed that her supervisor during her first three years on the job advised her that she "had no rights" as a casual employee, and that her seven subsequent supervisors never advised her of her rights. She also stated that she believed that anti-discrimination notices on EEO posters in her workplace applied only to regular, not casual, employees. Jackson contended that she did not learn of her right to complain of discrimination until after her discharge when the Illinois Department of Employment Security gave her written materials about discrimination.
The USDC granted USPS's motion for summary judgment, determining that Jackson's claim was barred because she did not timely contact an EEO officer. The court rejected Jackson's argument that her untimeliness was excused by the doctrine of equitable estoppel because Jackson could not establish that USPS took steps to prevent her from timely filing. Nor could Jackson avail herself of equitable tolling because she failed to exercise due diligence in pursuing her claim.
On appeal, Jackson's sole argument was that the USDC erred because there was a material issue of fact concerning whether USPS actively misled her into believing that she, as a casual employee, was not entitled to file a discrimination claim. Her only support for this argument was the assertions in her affidavit that her former supervisor told her she "had no rights" as a casual employee and that neither her subsequent supervisors nor the EEO posters in her workplace dispelled this misinformation. The USCA stated:
"The district court correctly concluded that Jackson's affidavit alone was insufficient to invoke equitable estoppel to excuse her untimely filing. Although Jackson contends that a prior supervisor told her that she had no right to complain of discrimination, her only evidence of this is her own self-serving and unsupported affidavit, which is insufficient to overcome summary judgment. ... In any event, her purported lack of awareness of her right to file a discrimination complaint is significantly undermined by her attendance at two training sessions, in 1997 and 1999, at which she received written documentation of the Postal Service's EEO policy and the procedure for filing a complaint. Jackson's argument is further weakened by the fact that the posters displayed in her workplace explicitly stated that EEO policies apply to 'any' postal employee and that employees must contact a counselor at the EEO office in Bedford Park within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory act or personnel action. In light of the many official statements from the Postal Service that were presented to her, the district court properly concluded that Jackson did not show she was actively misled about the applicability of the Postal Service's EEO policies to her as a casual employee.
FREIDA GAIL DREWERY v. MERVYNS DEPARTMENT STORE was a 2007 federal Washington state USDC case which involved an age 40s+ African-American Jehovah's Witness female, who had been employed by Mervyns at their Tacoma Mall store since 1984. In Fall 2005, Freida G. Drewery was employed as a "benefited" 32 hour-per-week associate, but Mervyns announced that "benefits" for hourly associates were being discontinued effective March 2006, and that the store would close in early 2007. In January 2006, Freida Drewery applied for the Department Supervisor - Jewelry position. During her interview, Drewery stated that her main objective in applying for the supervisory position was to maintain the benefits she was projected to lose on March 1, 2006. Drewry did not receive that promotion, but Drewry was offered the position of Department Supervisor -Shoes on January 29, 2006. Drewery did not accept the promotion until February 4, 2006. On February 8, 2006, Drewery filed an EEOC charge alleging age, race and religious discrimination in the promotion process. The charge stated as follows:
As Department Supervisor -Shoes, Drewery was coached and/or given feedback on a number of issues by various supervisors on March 9, 2006, March 15, 2006, March 23, 2006, and April 18, 2006. On April 4, 2006, Drewery received a training memorandum with guidelines regarding the opening/closing process for the store, but she failed to review the management schedule, and she failed to open the store on time. On June 15, 2006, Drewery filed a second EEOC charge alleging that three coachings and one instance of spying were in retaliation for having filed the first EEOC charge. This charge was dismissed by the EEOC on September 22, 2006. On January 12, 2007, Drewery filed an Employment Discrimination Complaint alleging Mervyns discriminated against her on the basis of her race or color, her religion, and her age. In December 2007, the USDC granted Mervyns request for Summary Judgment on all charges, stating in part:
"... Adderley was promoted to the Department Supervisor -Jewelry position because she was judged to have better leadership skills than Ms. Drewery had.. Ms. Temer and Ms. Beaver, interviewed Ms. Drewery and both cited weaknesses on the part of Ms. Drewery. ...
"... Regarding the claims based upon age and race, Mervyns hired two employees, one African-American and one over the age of 40, for supervisory positions during Mervyns' hiring period. ...
"Ms. Drewery has provided no evidence that supports her claim that the coachings or supervision conducted by Mervyns constituted adverse employment actions. Even if the coachings were found to constitute adverse employment actions, Mervyns has provided evidence that there were legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for these coachings. Several Mervyns employees provided statements that Ms. Drewery's work habits were lacking in some areas, suggesting that coachings under Mervyns policy were warranted. ...
"In her complaint, Ms. Drewery claims that, after she applied Assistant Manager position(s), "I was not selected for any of the positions and was told it was because of my availability....I later discovered that the store manager stated I was not promoted because I was not available to work on Sundays." ... This statement in the complaint does not set forth facts regarding what Ms. Drewery was told, who told her, or when she was told about her availability to work on Sundays and its connection to her applications for promotion to Department Supervisor positions. This statement is insufficient to establish that Mervyns' legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for failing to promote Ms. Drewery to the Department Supervisor - Jewelry position was a pretext for discriminating against her on the basis of religion because it does not comply with the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).
Additionally, Mervyns maintained that during Drewery's employment that her request not to be scheduled on Sundays, or Tuesday and Thursday evenings, because of her religious beliefs was always honored -- for years.
RUBY G. HUNTER v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE was a 2001-04 USPS employee EEOC decision which involved an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Ruby Hunter. After being denied time off to attend the annual summer WatchTower Convention in July 2001, Hunter filed an EEO complaint alleging religious discrimination, racial discrimination, and sex discrimination. USPS determined that no type of discrimination had occurred, and on appeal, EEOC affirmed.
In 2004, CDFEH v. GEMINI ALUMINUM CORP was decided in favor of a California Jehovah's Witness named Lester Young. Young's employer wrongfully discriminated against him by failing to make an "accommodation" so that Young could attend a District Convention. Young first requested time off from his supervisor, who was responsible for taking the request to management, and who was also a member of the management committee that would consider the request. The supervisor submitted a written request for Young, but the committee denied the request for failure to include the reason. The supervisor resubmitted the request, this time stating the reason was to attend a religious convention. The request was again denied. Young spoke with his supervisor about his religious beliefs and explained why it was necessary for him to get time off. Young said his local congregation encouraged all of their members to attend the convention and it was his responsibility to be there. Time off was still denied, but Young took off Friday to attend the convention. Young had not been scheduled to work on Saturday. When Young returned to work, he was given a 10 day suspension for failing to show up for work on Friday and Saturday, despite the fact he had not been scheduled to work on Saturday. Young protested the suspension, telling his supervisor that he thought it was unfair because he felt obligated to attend the convention for his religion and that other employees had received lesser suspensions for more absences. Young filed a complaint with the Labor Board, and was fired the same day.
Young filed a complaint with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which ruled that Gemini had discriminated against Young. Gemini filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, which directed the Commission to vacate its decision. CDFEH appealed, and the Appellate Court reversed. Under California's FEHA, an employee establishes a prima facie case of religious discrimination if the employee sincerely holds a religious belief, the employer is aware of that belief, and the belief conflicts with an employment requirement. Significantly, Gemini argued that Young did not testify that he was required to attend the convention. The court stated that under California law an employer is required to accommodate not just a religious belief, but also a religious observance, if it is reasonably possible to do without undue hardship. FEHA does not merely obligate an employer to accommodate only those religious practices that are required by the tenets of the employee's religion. The full decision contain much more useful information, and should be read by every California employer.
WILLIE P. CAMPBELL v. U.S. POSTAL SERVICE was a 2003-4 federal employee EEOC decision which involved a female African-American Jehovah's Witness named Willie P. Campbell. (See other cases by same employee.) On July 9, 2003, Willie Campbell was denied a change of work schedule to attend a WatchTower meeting. Thereafter, Campbell filed an EEO complaint alleging religious discrimination, racial discrimination, age discrimination, disability discrimination, and sex discrimination, plus "reprisal" due to her multiple previous and ongoing EEO complaints. USPS determined that Willie Campbell had not suffered any type of discrimination, and EEOC affirmed on appeal.
WILLIE P. CAMPBELL v. U.S. POSTAL SERVICE X 5 were five 2001-3 federal employee EEOC decisions which involved a female African-American Jehovah's Witness named Willie P. Campbell. (See other cases by same employee.) After five actions by USPS against Campbell, she filed EEO complaints alleging religious discrimination, racial discrimination, color discrimination, age discrimination, disability discrimination, and sex discrimination, plus "reprisal" due to her multiple previous and ongoing EEO complaints. USPS determined that Willie Campbell had not suffered any type of discrimination during any of the actions, and EEOC affirmed on appeal, in bulk. EEOC also affirmed on reconsideration.
LESLIE MATOS v. PNC FINANCIAL SERVICES was a 2005 New Jersey federal lawsuit filed by a Jehovah's Witness named Leslie Matos. PNC hired Matos as a part-time bank teller in October 1998. Matos informed the Bank of her anti-holidays Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs soon thereafter when the entire branch, including Matos' teller station, was decorated for Halloween. Matos moved all the decorations at her station to another teller's station. Matos also was frequently required to work late on Friday evenings, which often made her late for religious meetings. Matos' first significant conflict with PNC occurred in July 1999 when she asked her manager for two days off of work so that she could attend the Jehovah's Witness convention. Because Matos was a part-time employee and had no vacation days, she requested the days off without pay. After initially denying the request, the manager permitted Matos to take time off, but required that she take the entire week off, instead of only two days. By taking the full week off without pay, Matos was able to attend the assembly. Problems with getting time off to attend the annual District Convention did not occur again until 2002. Matos initially approached PNC in January about her need to take two days off for the assembly in July. However, the Bank issued vacation time in order of seniority, and the desired days were not available. Matos did not make an issue of such at that time, because she believed she would be able in use other time-off options in July. However, when Matos asked for time off in July, the branch manager refused her request. When Matos informed her supervisor that she would be attending the Convention regardless, she was told she would be fired if she did so. Rather than waiting to be fired, Matos resigned.
Thereafter, Matos filed this federal lawsuit alleging religious discrimination. Specifically, Matos alleged that PNC's refusal to approve her absence was a failure to accommodate her religious beliefs as required by Title VII. Matos also alleges disparate treatment, constructive discharge, a hostile work environment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In October 2005, the USDC summarily dismissed Matos' last two claims, but the balance of her case went forward. Outcome is unknown, but if PNC did not settled, they likely lost at trial.
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.
ANGELO PRUNELLA v. CARLSHIRE TENANTS INC was a 2000 New York federal case which is very similar to the BOTTINI case above. Angelo Prunella, a Jehovah's Witness, was employed as a cooperative building superintendent from July 1994 until May 1997, when he was fired. Prunella initially sought help through his union, which arranged arbitration. Prior to such, Prunella accepted the defendant's $11,000 offer of settlement. However, Prunella then turned around and filed a federal lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that defendants terminated his employment because of his Jehovah's Witness religious affiliation. The USDC summarily dismissed Prunella's lawsuit due to his release of all claims signed when he accepted the settlement offer.
LEWIS ROGERS JR. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS was a 1997-1999 federal employee EEOC decision which involved an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Lewis Rogers Jr. Rogers was employed as a Records Management/Duplication Clerk at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Rogers was scheduled to work Monday through Friday, from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Rogers was the only employee who performed his duties.
In February 1997, Lewis Rogers Jr requested that his work schedule be "compressed" to Monday through Thursday from 6:00 AM to 4:30 PM., which would "allow him more time to devote to his Family and Church." Rogers failed to identify a specific WatchTower belief or practice which required him to not work on Fridays. Rogers' request was denied, and Rogers thereafter filed a complaint alleging religious discrimination based on the agency's failure to provide reasonable accommodation "to pursue his work with his church and devote more time to his family." After the agency ruled that there had been no religious discrimination, Rogers added the allegations that he had also suffered racial discrimination, color discrimination, and age discrimination. On appeal, the EEOC affirmed the agency's ruling that there had been no religious discrimination, and found no race, color, nor age discrimination.
DANIEL J. GRIEGO v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE was a 1998-9 federal employee EEOC decision which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Daniel Griego. In January 1998, April 1998, and June 1998, Griego requested vacation time to attend the annual WatchTower Convention during three days in July 1998. Each request was denied due to there being no opening in the previously set schedule. After the June 1998 denial, Dan Griego filed an EEO complaint alleging religious discrimination. USPS eventually granted Griego time off for the three days of the Convention, but not the entire week as he had requested. Griego continued to press his discrimination case even after attending the Convention, and this 1999 appeal of the 1998 dismissal allowed such to go forward. Outcome unknown.
JEAN STEPHEN v. MAXIMUM SECURITY & INVESTIGATIONS, INC. was a 1996-2000 New York federal court case which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Jean Stephen. In 1996, Stephen was hired on May 30 and fired on August 6. Stephen, who had been unemployed for one year prior to this job, and who remained unemployed for two years thereafter, was terminated after only 9 weeks due to a pattern of tardiness and absences, including three days allegedly to attend a Jehovah's Witness District Convention. Stephen initially filed a complaint of discrimination with the New York State Division of Human Rights. However, the Division made a finding of "No Probable Cause" as to Stephen's claim of religious discrimination. In 1999, Stephen filed a federal lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging he was terminated because of his Jehovah's Witness religion, including failure to "accommodate" such. The USDC summarily dismissed Stephen's lawsuit in December 2000. The Court noted that prior to the Convention in question that Stephen had already incurred one unacceptable tardy and one unacceptable absence. Stephen also failed to follow proper procedure to get off work for the three day Convention, plus he was absent the day before and the day after such. The Court also noted that Maximum employed a number of other Jehovah's Witnesses without allegations of discrimination, including Stephen's own supervisor.
MARILYN ENGSTROM v. KINNEY SYSTEM, INC. was an extremely interesting 1994-97 New York state court case involving a Jehovah's Witness named Marilyn Engstrom. It appears that Engstrom simply made up her own "supposed Watchtower rule" so that she did not have to do something she did not want to do. Engstrom had worked since 1976 as a cashier at a New York parking garage. Since at least 1990, her shift began at 11:00 am and ended at 7:00 pm. In August 1993, Kinney introduced a new cashier's uniform, identical to that of the parking attendants, consisting of a white shirt, black pants and a black bow tie. The uniform was intended to convey a professional and recognizable image to the public. In September 1993, a Manager noticed that Engstrom was not wearing her bow tie. He instructed her that, pursuant to the company's policy, she was required to wear it. Engstrom responded that wearing a bow tie would violate her religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, and she would not wear it. (At this point, non-JW readers should know that there is no such JW rule, nor is there any rule even close that might be mistakenly interpreted as such.) The Manager sent plaintiff home for violating the dress-code policy. Later that day, he consulted with higher managers, and it was decided that Engstrom would be "accommodated" and allowed to wear a substitute for the bow tie, such as a scarf, ribbon or sash. Meanwhile, Engstrom complained to her union representative about the bow tie requirement. Both Engstrom and the union representative were informed of the "accommodation". Nonetheless, Engstrom returned to work on September 27, 1993 wearing the bow tie. She raised no further objection and did not avail herself of the accommodation.
In January 1994, the work schedule of six of the nine garage employees was altered to better reflect the times the garage was most busy. Engstrom's hours were changed to 12:30 pm to 8:30 PM. Engstrom did not report to work on January 24th or January 25th, informing her supervisor by phone that she could not work under the new schedule, and that she was ill and had gone to a doctor. On January 26th, plaintiff again failed to report to work, so the employer wrote to her union representative, stating that Engstrom was considered to have abandoned her position. A Step I grievance hearing was scheduled for February 2, 1994, and rescheduled for February 9th. Engstrom failed to appear on either date. On February 9, 1994, Engstrom's attorney wrote to the employer accusing them of religious discrimination by suspending plaintiff for following her religious conviction, and by changing her work schedule in retaliation for her complaint. Engstrom's attorney further alleged that the shift change was one the employer knew would place tremendous burdens on Engstrom because of her commute." By letter dated March 10, 1994, the employer's attorney extended an offer for Engstrom to return to work, still requiring Engstrom to work the later hours. However, the letter requested information regarding the nature and time of certain religious meetings allegedly attended by Engstrom two evenings a week "to continue discussion of a reasonable accommodation." Engstrom rejected the offer, and filed a lawsuit on April 8, 1994. "The complaint included five causes of action alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of Executive Law § 290 et seq.; violation of plaintiff's constitutional free speech rights; violations of the Labor Law by failing to pay plaintiff her last weeks' wages and by deducting one dollar per hour from her salary; and intentional infliction of emotional distress."
Defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff cross-moved for partial summary judgment on its wage deduction and emotional distress causes of action. The IAS court denied both motions, finding numerous disputes of fact between the parties. On appeal, the state appellate dismissed all of Engstrom's lawsuit.
Although the appellate court did not know that the "bow tie" incident was a scam, note this comment regarding Engstrom's pleadings: "While plaintiff does not allege that the bow tie requirement was based on any discriminatory motive, she does allege that she was the subject of religious discrimination by being singled out for enforcement of the dress code policy. However, plaintiff's accusations are vague, conclusory and bereft of supporting evidence." There was good reason Engstrom's "accusations are vague, conclusory and bereft of supporting evidence". The appellate court also picked up on the "missed meetings" excuse: "... plaintiff's attorney initially objected to the shift changes on the ground of commuting inconveniences, not religious reasons ... ." The court also noted that Engstrom had failed to cooperate in any of the employer's attempts to "accommodate" Engstrom's alleged religious beliefs.
JOHN RUSSELL v. ACME-EVANS COMPANY was a 1994 Indiana federal lawsuit involving a Jehovah's Witness named John Russell. Russell alleged discrimination based on race (African-American) and age (60) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Russell's allegations included the assertion that he was denied a certain promotion. The employer countered that Russell's "obligations as a Jehovah's Witness" potentially interfered with his ability to perform the position, "which involves working erratic hours and shifts". Russell also complained about being transferred to one certain position. The employer provided three reasons for transferring Russell to that position: "(1) The skid wrapper position allowed Acme-Evans to supervise Russell's work more closely; (2) The job transfer and increased supervision were designed to result in a more efficient use of Russell's time; (3) Russell had numerous job performance problems in his sweeper position." The USDC summarily dismissed Russell's lawsuit.
At the hearing(s), Green argued that Woodman's decision to place her on a "restricted hours" salary schedule constituted discrimination against her because of her religion. However, the decision was not because of Green's religion but because of her unavailability for work on certain hours and certain days. Any employee who was unable to work certain days for whatever reason, relating to religious observance or not, would be placed on the lower salary schedule. A policy, that employees who will not make themselves available for work assignments at particular times will be paid less than employees who will make themselves available, is completely neutral in terms of religion and does not constitute discrimination because of religious creed. The Commission pointed out that the very existence of variable salary schedules, providing for and allowing the employment of persons who could selectively restrict their availability as they chose, in fact made it possible for persons such as Green to maintain employment while still engaging in all of the religious observances required by their faith.
DAVILA v. IOWA BEEF PROCESSORS was a 1989-90 Nebraska Unemployment Compensation tribunal decision which involved a Jehovah's Witness Employee named "Davila", who apparently LIED UNDER OATH by claiming "his religion does not allow him to work at night". A "Jehovah's Witness" named Davila, who probably was not even an American citizen, was initially employed by Iowa Beef Processors at one of its Texas processing plants. For some unknown reason, in April 1989, the $6.00 per hour employee decided to relocate to Dakota, Nebraska, where Iowa Beef Processors again hired him. However, the day shift was not available. Davila worked one of the night shifts for 4 weeks before then quitting and attempting to draw unemployment compensation. The initial claim was denied, and on appeal, an ALJ also ruled against Davila, noting that at no time did Davila ever notify the employer that a religious conflict existed regarding his work schedule. The lesson in this case for both employers and government officials is to STOP believing Jehovah's Witness Employees every time they claim that something is"against their religion". Ask for verification/documentation. The WatchTower Society puts nearly everything in writing.
ANDREWS v. ALBERTSONS was a 1987 Florida religious discrimination case, which was eventually won by the JW Employee. During his employment interview for a meat cutter's position, the JW Employee explained that he was a JW Elder (Minister), with many religious obligations, and that such would prevent him from working on certain days and/or times, but that he would always try to give timely notice. The JW Employee was a highly experienced meat cutter, and Albertson's gladly accepted his conditions. For nearly a year and a half, both the employer and the JW Employee made special efforts to work together to accommodate the employer's and the JW Employee's needs. Inevitably, a scheduling conflict occurred which both parties worked hard to resolve, but failed. When the JW Employee was pressed to work the scheduled time, he refused, and resigned. The JW Employee filed a religious discrimination complaint with the Florida Commission On Human Rights, which ruled in his favor.
DIANA DUPONT v. EMPLOYMENT DIVISION was a 1986 Oregon state court unemployment compensation case involving a Jehovah's Witness named Diana Dupont. Dupont was employed at a laundry service for just over one year, when she approached the owner and requested two days leave to attend a Jehovah's Witnesses District convention. The owner initially indicated that time off would not be a problem. However, two days prior to the convention, the employer told the JW Employee that she could not have the time off because the inability to arrange a replacement would leave the employer shorthanded. Dupont indicated that she would attend the Convention anyway, so the employer formally warned Dupont that her absence on those days would be considered termination of her employment. The JW Employee attended the District Convention, and later applied for unemployment benefits. The Board denied benefits based on the fact that the Watch Tower Society does not absolutely require attendance, and there are no published sanctions for non-attendance. That decision was eventually reversed on appeal, where it was ruled the JW Employee left employment due to a sincere religious belief. Denial of unemployment benefits for engaging in bona fide religious conduct constitutes a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion. The Oregon appellate court ruled that Dupont was entitled to prevail under the federal First Amendment, because she "voluntarily left her employment for a sincere, religiously motivated action. ... she considered attendance at the convention a religious obligation and part of her commitment to her Creator and that she believed that the convention was a time to advance and make more firm her belief in God and the teachings of her church. Thus, she was put to a choice between fidelity to her religious belief or cessation of work. The coercive impact on her exercise of religion is ... impermissible under the First Amendment ... . ... The fact that attending the convention was not required by her church or that other church members did not attend is irrelevant to the federal analysis."
ROBERT BOTTINI v. SADORE MANAGEMENT CORP was a long series of New York state and federal actions which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Robert Bottini. Bob Bottini began working in 1978 as superintendent of an apartment building owned by Sadore. Bottini's compensation included a rent-free apartment. When Sadore attempted in 1982 to discharge Bottini for unsatisfactory work performance, he requested that the dispute be resolved through arbitration, as provided under his union contract. After a hearing, an arbitrator found no just cause for Bottini's discharge and tried to devise a schedule to accommodate Bottini's attending Jehovah Witnesses "meetings" during his Sunday morning work period. In 1983, Sadore was still dissatisfied with Bottini's work performance and sent him another discharge notice. Again, the parties went to arbitration. This time the arbitrator found just cause for Bottini's discharge and, in accordance with that finding, ordered Bottini to vacate his apartment in Sadore's building within 30 days. Bottini then brought a proceeding under Article 75 of New York's CPLR in State Supreme Court challenging the arbitrator's decision. When his petition was denied, appellant took no appeal. Sadore thereupon initiated a holdover proceeding in the City Court of Yonkers to evict Bottini from its apartment. This action resulted in a final order and warrant for appellant's eviction.
Just prior to his March 1983 receipt of the second notice of discharge, Bottini had filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging religious discrimination. In compliance with the requirements of Title VII he had also filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. In April 1983, SDHR found "no probable cause" to believe that Bottini's discharge had been an act of religious discrimination. Bottini took no administrative appeal from the SDHR's finding. In August 1983, the EEOC issued a similar finding of "no probable cause". Bottini then commenced a Title VII federal action. Sadore moved for dismissal based on res judicata, which the USDC granted. However, on appeal in 1985, the USCA reversed and remanded for a trial de novo. In 1987, the USDC ruled in Sadore's favor after a full bench trial.
EEOC v. CHRYSLER was a 1986-87 Ohio federal lawsuit involving a Jehovah's Witness named Fred Karanovich. Karanovich began working for Chrysler in 1963. In 1969, Fred Karanovich became a member of the Jehovah Witnesses. In practicing his religion, he attends the Stow Kingdom Hall on three separate days during the week. On Tuesday evening the congregation meets for a book study of various materials concerning Jehovah Witnesses. On Thursday nights the congregation again meets for a study session of some selected topic in the Bible. On Sunday morning the members of the Stow Kingdom Hall meet for a public talk or lecture on the Bible given by one of the five elders in the congregation. This talk is followed by a group discussion of the topics contained in the weekly edition of the Watchtower, a publication produced by and for the various Jehovah Witness congregations throughout the world. After this Sunday morning meeting, Karanovich prefers to perform his field service. All members of the congregation are expected to go out into the community to discuss the Jehovah Witness beliefs with non-members of his congregation. It was Karanovich's custom to perform his field service either with his family or with some other member of the congregation. The Jehovah's Witness religion does not observe any day as a sabbath, nor do the tenets of this religion prohibit any member from working or having employment on Sundays. Each member is encouraged to attend all of the meetings at Kingdom Hall but no member is required to attend. In addition, the members are encouraged to perform their field service work on any day of the week. This aspect of their ministry is to be done whenever the members are able to go into the public and can be practiced in the evenings.
Beginning in 1983, Fred Karanovich requested that Chrysler grant him a religious accommodation which would permit him to take all Sundays off from work. Prior to this time Mr. Karanovich had routinely worked when scheduled on Sundays and had never expressed any dissatisfaction to the Chrysler management about his particular overtime work schedule. Karanovich was advised by Chrysler to submit a letter from the head of his congregation in support of the request. Thereafter, a letter was submitted by one of the elders of Stow Kingdom Hall congregation in support of Karanovich's request. After reviewing Karanovich's request, Chrysler denied the request for religious accommodation.
In May 1984, Fred Karanovich filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC wherein he asserted that Chrysler had discriminated against him on the basis of his religious preference. Specifically, Karanovich charged that the company did accommodate members of other religious groups such as the Seventh-Day Adventists by permitting those individuals to not work on their sabbath. This matter was reviewed by the EEOC administratively; however, the EEOC was unable to conciliate the dispute with Chrysler and Karanovich. The company has granted some of its employees at Twinsburg a religious accommodation which permit the individual to not work on certain days of the week. In each of these instances a tenet of the individual's religion strictly prohibits working on a specified sabbath. None of these people are employed in the same job classification as Karanovich. A factor in the company's decision to deny Karanovich's request for religious accommodation was Chrysler's view that his desire to have all Sundays off was not based upon a sincere religious belief. The company reasoned that since Karanovich had previously worked on Sundays and that he readily admitted that his religion does not prohibit the working on Sundays, he should not be treated in a manner different than provided for in the collective bargaining agreement.
Frederick Karanovich failed to report to work on any Sunday when he was scheduled to work since August 1984. As a result of his absence on each such occasion, Chrysler operated the plant with one less electrician than planned by the production control personnel at the facility. Thus the possibility existed that this shortage of an electrician might result in production delays and additional costs. In addition, the company could not perform certain maintenance functions as planned. Karanovich was subjected to various disciplinary actions by the company. The discipline was progressive and in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. This progressive discipline resulted in Karanovich being given 79 days in layoffs without pay. On November 30, 1986, Karanovich failed to report as scheduled on a Sunday and was notified by the company that he could be terminated for absenteeism. Throughout the disciplinary proceedings, Karanovich maintained consistently that he has been unfairly denied a religious accommodation and has been discriminated against by Chrysler.
In 1987, the USDC ruled in Chrysler's favor, stating: "Each time Mr. Karanovich is scheduled to work on a Sunday and then fails to report, the company has suffered some economic loss in productivity. In addition, the granting of a religious accommodation to one employee because of his desire to have all Sundays off, directly impacts upon the other electricians in the same job classification. Thus, the company is placed in the position of giving preference to the wishes of one employee due to his religious beliefs, over the rights of all of the other employees who desire to have the day off from work but do not share the same religious beliefs as are held by Mr. Karanovich. In making this decision, the company has followed the collective bargaining agreement which attempts to treat all employees equally, regardless of their religious beliefs. In sum, Chrysler's decision concerning Mr. Karanovich is not discriminatory. Hence, this court does not find that the Congressional purpose enunciated in Title VII of preventing religious discrimination in the workplace has been violated. ... the court further finds that even though Chrysler was not required under Title VII to circumvent the collective bargaining agreement to accommodate Mr. Karanovich, the defendant has demonstrated that it attempted to offer an accommodation to Mr. Karanovich within the limits of the UAW agreement. The record reveals that Chrysler has made religious accommodation to other Twinsburg employees who are not in the same job classification as is the charging party. In each of these instances the persons accommodated are members of religious groups which prohibit the individual from working on a specified sabbath. In Mr. Karanovich's case, the company viewed his situation to be different from the other individuals since he readily admitted that no tenet of his religion prohibited his working on Sunday. In addition, the company questioned the charging party's sincerity because, even though his church affiliation was as it is now, he had historically worked on Sunday as requested by Chrysler. In any event, the defendant did provide a manner in which Mr. Karanovich could obtain his desired result of having Sunday off from work. Under the collective bargaining agreement, Mr. Karanovich has various bidding and seniority rights which would enable him to seek other positions at the plant. Instead of utilizing the options available to him under the UAW agreement, Mr. Karanovich has staunchly maintained the position of having all Sundays off and remaining employed as an electrician. Under such circumstances the court does not find that the charging party has acted with the "bilateral cooperation" necessary for accommodation.
JAMES ROBINSON v. PILOT FREIGHT CARRIERS, INC. was a 1986 North Carolina state court lawsuit involving a Jehovah's Witness named James Robinson. This case is unique in that the local county government had passed a local law/ordinance similar to Title VII of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and provided a Commission to hear complaints under such. The specifics are sketchy, but it seems that Robinson's complaint was in regard to scheduling around his Jehovah's Witness "meetings" on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The local Commission issued an order of "accommodation" involving "job trading", which Pilot found unacceptable due to differences in experience and abilities of the employees. The case then went to the local trial level, where that judge ruled that the Commission's decision was wrong; ruling that the Commission's "accomodation" would impose more than "a de minimis cost" on Pilot. The NC appellate court agreed, stating: "We have examined the record in the present case and hold that Judge Strickland correctly concluded that the Commission's findings that its suggested accommodations would impose only a de minimis cost on Pilot were not supported by the evidence and were affected by error of law. The whole record before us, the same as the record before Judge Strickland, demonstrates that Pilot made great efforts to accommodate Robinson's religious practices from 1980 until May 1982, first by allowing a clerical employee to work for Robinson on Thursday nights and then by substituting Godwin and Frye for Robinson on those nights. When these alternatives failed because of economic reasons or loss of efficiency, Pilot's terminal manager and the vice president of personnel discussed possible alternatives with Robinson, but they were unable to work out a solution. The accommodations suggested by the Commission, that Robinson trade jobs on Thursdays with Frye, the terminal manager, or with Margaret Spurling, who did not have the same job duties as Robinson, were similar to the suggested accommodations specifically rejected by the Supreme Court in the Hardison decision. These accommodations would impose a more than a de minimis cost in the form of lost efficiency and are therefore not required by Chapter 6.5 of the New Hanover County Code."
EEOC v. HACIENDA HOTEL was a lengthy 1982-89 California federal lawsuit involving a Jehovah's Witness named Maria Elena Gonzalez, who was an illegal alien. Gonzalez was a maid in the Hacienda Housekeeping Department from October 27, 1980, to September 21, 1983. "Gonzalez is a Jehovah's Witness and observes her Sabbath on Sundays. In early September, 1982, Gonzalez requested that she be given Sundays off in order to observe the Sabbath." Gonzalez's supervisor initially granted Gonzalez's request; two days later she changed her mind and told Gonzalez that she had to work Sundays or quit. Gonzalez filed a union grievance complaining of the supervisor's refusal to accommodate her religious beliefs. Gonzalez also informed the General Manager of the Hacienda Hotel of the supervisor's refusal to adjust her schedule. The GM told Gonzalez that he would speak with the supervisor regarding her request. Gonzalez's supervisor subsequently told Gonzalez that because she had complained to the GM that she would never have Sundays off, and that she should be grateful that she had a job. During September 1982, the supervisor issued four disciplinary warnings to Gonzalez and fired her on September 21, 1982. Gonzalez thereafter filed a complaint with EEOC, as did four other maids. EEOC filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Hacienda failed to accommodate Gonzalez's religious beliefs, and retaliated against Gonzalez for opposing Hacienda's discriminatory practices by firing her.
In Septmeber 1987, the USDC ruled that Gonzalez's religious discrimination and retaliation claims had been established by a preponderance of the evidence. The district court awarded back pay to Gonzalez for the period between her date of termination, September 21, 1982, and December of 1983, a period the court deemed sufficient in light of her duty to mitigate damages. In addition, the court enjoined the Hacienda from any further discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, and opposition to unlawful employment practices. On appeal to the USCA, Hacienda argued that awarding back pay to an illegal alien was "illegal", and that 15 months back pay was excessive given the demand for maids in the local area. The USCA affirmed the USDC's rulings and awards; particularly noting that Gonzalez was entitled to and had even collected unemployment compensation benefits despite her "illegal" status.
DONALD HAIG v. ST. EDWARDS MERCY HOSPITAL was a 1982-83 unemployment compensation case ultimately decided by the Arkansas Court of Appeals. After Donald Haig converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses, he began attending the three WatchTower conventions each year. Although it created scheduling problems, St. Edwards Mercy Hospital readily cooperated in allowing Haig to switch shifts or take accrued vacation time in order to attend these three conventions.
In August 1982, Haig notified the Hospital of a convention being held on a Saturday, but the work schedules had already been prepared, and Haig was scheduled to work. Haig was allowed to switch shifts with a co-worker, but the co-worker later had a personal conflict arise, and he was unable to work the Saturday shift. Haig attempted to arrange for a substitute, but the only other available co-worker was too inexperienced and was unacceptable to the employer. Since no acceptable substitute was available, the Hospital informed Haig that he would be required to work, and, if he attended the convention leaving no one to work his shift, then he would be fired. Haig informed Hospital that he intended to be present at the scheduled convention, and he tendered his resignation.
Haig filed for unemployment benefits, which were denied by the Board of Review on a finding that he voluntarily quit his last work without good cause connected with the work. This appellate decision affirmed the denial, stating:
After a review of the record, we are satisfied that there is substantial evidence to support the Board's decision denying benefits to the appellant on a finding that he voluntarily quit his last work. We find the Sherbert and Thomas decisions distinguishable from the facts presented in the case at bar. Here, the appellant's desire to attend the religious convention was not a 'cardinal principle of' or 'conduct mandated by' his religion. Thus, he was not required to choose between his employment and the sacrifice of a constitutionally protected right. Since the appellant's desire to attend the convention was personally motivated and his non-attendance was not violative of the foundation of his religion, we affirm the Board's denial of unemployment compensation benefits.
The Arkansas Appellate Court's reasoning was incorrect. The cited precedents make it clear that an employee's personal beliefs are controlling; even if such are more restrictive than that required by his denomination. Instead, this court should have ruled in the hospital's favor based on precedents pertaining to "accommodation". In this instance, the hospital clearly had made reasonable attempts to accommodate Haig's schedule, and his eventual absence created an "undue hardship" for his employer.
E.E.O.C. v. BLUE BELL, INC. was a 1975-9 Texas federal court decision which involved seven Jehovah's Witnesses employed at a garment manufacturing plant. Seven JW Employees requested the exact same days off in order to attend the annual WatchTower Convention. (The number of requested days off is uncertain, but in 1975, it was possibly as few as 4, or as many as 7. Currently, the annual Convention has been reduced to 3 days.) Employer offered to grant the days off to 2-3 of the JW Employees, but would not agree to grant the exact same time off to all seven. The seven JWs took the days off anyway, and were all subsequently terminated. The seven JWs filed a federal lawsuit claiming religious discrimination. The decision is unclear, but it appears that the Court of Appeals affirmed the USDC's decision in favor of Blue Bell that accommodating that many JWs for the exact same days amounted to "undue hardship" on the employer.******************
FLORIDA DEPT OF HRS v. VENTURI-CLYDE was a 1977 personnel hearing involving a Florida Jehovah's Witness employed at a state-operated residential facility for the profound and severely retarded. The JW Employee requested two days annual leave to attend a Jehovah's Witness Circuit Assembly. By making inquiry of other employees as to exchanging days with the JW Employee and instructing the JW Employee to do the same, the employer attempted to accommodate the JW Employee's request, but was unsuccessful. The JW Employee took off the two days anyway, plus failed to call in. After returning to work, the JW Employee was docked the two day's pay, and was suspended for three days without pay. The JW Employee appealed the suspension. The Hearing found that the employer's attempt to make an "accommodation" was "reasonable", though such failed. The Hearing found that the suspension was not due to the JW Employee attendance at the religious convention, but due to the Employee's history of tardiness and absences. On numerous occasions during her employment, the JW Employee had been orally counseled by her supervisor regarding excessive absences and tardiness. In April 1975, and January 1976, respondent received written reprimands from her supervisor for an unauthorized absence and habitual tardiness. On both occasions, she was warned that the next such offense would warrant suspension. The suspension was affirmed.
"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 isSherbert 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."
RODGES REDMOND v. GAF CORP was a 1974-8 federal lawsuit involving an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Rodges Redmond. Redmond originally filed a racial discrimination complaint with EEOC, and a federal lawsuit, in July 1974. After he was fired in August, he amended his complaint and federal lawsuit to include religious discrimination. There is something that really "stinks" about this case. GAF and the USDC may very well have been the victims of a Watchtower conspiracy.
Redmond's employment troubles centered around GAF's infrequent request that Redmond work on Saturdays. Redmond had been employed by GAF since 1952, and he had been a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion since 1958. Redmond was appointed to be in charge of a Bible study class by the Elders of the church in 1959. That "meeting" was held on Tuesday evenings until January 1974, when it was changed by the Elders to Saturday morning. Thereafter, Redmond refused to work on Saturdays. In July 1974, Redmond took vacation time to attend a Watchtower Convention during GAF's annual inventory. When Redmond returned to work, he was suspended one day. Redmond explained that all the absences in question were due to his religious obligations as a Jehovah's Witness, and that he would not work overtime on Saturday. Redmond was then fired.
What "stinks" about the lawsuit is the following. During the USDC trial, an Elder who served as the Bible Study Overseer from Redmond's congregation, named Herring, testified that the "leader" for the Bible study class is recommended by the Elders of his congregation, and when the appointment is approved by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society headquarters in New York,the person holds that position for life. That is flat out "perjury". "Book Study Conductors" (not "Bible study leaders") and "book study locations" were/are changed with some frequency for any number of reasons. One very frequent reason is to accomodate the work schedules of the various conductors. Non-JWs should also understand that each JW Congregation holds multiple "book studies" depending on size of the congregation. The very purpose of the "book study" is to break down the congregation into very small intimate groups so that everyone is encouraged to participate in that particular meeting. Herring also testified that the decision to change the meeting from Tuesday to Saturday was made by the Body of Elders and that it was not within the power of Redmond, or even himself, as Bible Study Overseer, to change the time the class met. That testimony is not merely perjurious; it is simply ridiculous. Probably 99% of all "Congregation Book Studies" held in the United States during the 1970s were held on either Monday or Tuesday night. Frankly, this entire case sounds like the Elders of this JW congregation and Redmond conspired to move the day/time of Redmond's "book study" to conflict with GAF's overtime requirements. The Watch Tower Society may have even been involved, since it is well known that when the Watch Tower Society wants to fight a particular issue, they will "forum shop" by waiting and picking the federal court and/or circuit that they think will rule in their favor. For those employers who believe that Jehovah's Witnesses would never lie in court, I suggest that you read the book The Theocratic War Doctrine: Why Jehovah's Witnesses Lie In Court. Essentially, "the theocratic war doctrine" says that the "Jehovah's Witnesses" is the only "true religion" on earth, and as such, Jehovah's Witnesses are in a "theocratic war" with everyone else on earth, who are, by default, on Satan's side in the universal war between GOD and Satan. Once this "JWs versus Everyone Else" mindset is established, there is added the idea that "lying to one's enemies" is an acceptable part of that warfare. Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that they do not have to tell the truth to anyone they can rationalize is someone who is not "entitled" to be told the truth.
Redmond's second amended complaint alleged the following violations of Title VII by GAF: "(a) failure to promote plaintiff because of his race; (b) compensation of plaintiff at a lower rate than other employees because of his race; (c) harassment of plaintiff in retaliation for filing discrimination charges with the [EEOC]; and (d) termination of plaintiff either in retaliation for bringing EEOC charges or because of his inability to work overtime on Saturdays, even though his religious practices prevented him from doing so." The USDC dismissed all charges except religious discrimination, but ruled that GAF had failed to show any effort to reasonably accommodate Redmond's religious practices, or that an accommodation effort would have caused GAF any inconvenience. The USDC concluded that GAF had violated Title VII in that "said discharge discriminated against the plaintiff in the exercise of his religion and his religious practices and activities." On appeal, the 7th Circuit affirmed, stating:
"There is no dispute that Redmond was sincere in his religious belief, having been an active participating member of the church for over 16 years. The evidence establishes that he was appointed to be a lifetime leader of the Bible study class, and had done so for many years prior to this case. The evidence showed that the time of the meeting was arranged by the elders, and that following the meeting the group, of which Redmond was the leader, did field missionary work. Redmond testified that he felt his participation in the Saturday activities was at the dictate of his elders and that they were a 'religious obligation.' We conclude that the practices in question are within the protection offered by § 2000e(j) to "all aspects of religious observance and practice". ... According to § 2000e(j) once the plaintiff here had established that his practice, which prevented him working Saturday overtime, was "religious" and that nonetheless it had been used as the basis for discharging him, the burden shifted to the employer to 'demonstrate that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee's . . . religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business.' The court below found that plaintiff had made out a prima facie case of religious discrimination. The court further found that the defendant made 'no effort to accommodate plaintiff,' nor had it introduced any evidence 'showing or tending to show any inconvenience' which would have prevented it from accommodating plaintiff's religious practices."
OLIE H. GRIGGSBY v. CALIFORNIA was a 1968 California administrative court decision. The California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board affirmed the denial of UC benefits to a Jehovah's Witness, named Olie H. Griggsby, 65, of Modesto, who the Board ruled had taken himself out of the "service station" employment market by refusing to work night shift on four evenings which he had set aside to attend WatchTower meetings, or to perform WatchTower recruiting. Griggsby had apparently worked only day shifts for the year that he was employed at a Shell service station, but was bumped to night shifts by a co-worker with more seniority. The fact that Griggsby was a "Congregation Servant", or the "leader" of his congregation received no weight in the decision-making. Typically, Griggsby vowed to appeal this violation of his constitutional rights. Outcome unknown.