The EEOC has sued Lowe’s Home Centers in Tennessee for religious discrimination. The home improvement retailer denied a Baptist employee his request to not work Sundays in order to celebrate his Sabbath. According to the EEOC, the employee made two written requests for accommodations. Lowe’s ignored the requests for over two months and then denied them. Its explanation was that granting the requests could create a hardship for other employees who may desire not to work on Sundays. Not surprisingly, it is the EEOC’s position that this is not enough of a hardship to deny the requested accommodation.
The EEOC’s stance on the case is not altered by the fact the employee was not a Baptist when he was hired. He converted several years later and, according to the EEOC, is entitled to the accommodation regardless.
The duty to accommodate religious beliefs is a pretty hefty one, and one employers need to pay particular attention to. Managers should also receive training to understand their legal obligations in this regard. In a nutshell, if an employee requests not to work on a particular day for religious reasons, caution dictates granting the request or, at a minimum, consulting with counsel.