Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Michigan employers can learn from Food Lion lawsuit

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against grocery chain Food Lion in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The suit, filed Aug. 20, claims that Food Lion failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for a Jehovah's Witness minister when it fired him for being unable to work on Sundays.

The employee was hired by the company in June 2011 to work as a meat cutter a market in Winston-Salem. As a condition of his employment, he asked to have Sundays and Thursday evenings off because, as a minister, he was required to be at church during those times. While Food Lion initially honored the request, the company failed to provide this accommodation when he transferred to another Food Lion store in Kernersville; the manager there allegedly told him that he failed to see how the employee could work for the company if he could not work on Sundays.

Three weeks after he was hired by Food Lion, the man's employment was terminated. The EEOC is seeking back pay, past and future pecuniary losses and past and future non-pecuniary losses. Additionally, the EEOC is seeking compensatory damages and injunctive relief. In the complaint, it claims that the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make accommodations for employees who have sincerely held religious beliefs.

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for religious reasons whenever possible. If an employee cannot work on certain days due to his or her beliefs, an employer must make a reasonable attempt to work out a compromise. Employers who need assistance complying with their obligations under the law may wish to hire an employment law attorney. An attorney may be able to advise a company of its rights and obligations under the law to ensure that all employees are being treated fairly and no discrimination is taking place.

Source: Salisbuy Post, "EEOC sues Food Lion for religious discrimination", August 20, 2014

Source: Salisbuy Post, "EEOC sues Food Lion for religious discrimination", August 20, 2014

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