Must Employers Accommodate A Worker’s Request Not To Work On Sundays Because Of A Religious Belief?
For more than twenty years, our Citrus County employment lawyers have fought for the rights of employment discrimination victims. Through their decades of experience representing employment discrimination victims, our Inverness, Florida employment attorneys know there is often a conflict between an employee’s religious beliefs and the employer’s job requirements. When such a conflict exists, many employers demand that employees comply with their employment requirements and punish employees who fail to comply with their employment requirements, such as by disciplining or terminating them. In this article, our Citrus County employment attorneys explain how the decision in Perticone v. Bell Motors, LLC, Case No. 16-cv-02852 (D. Ariz. Jan. 9, 2018) demonstrates that employers are required to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs when they conflict with employment requirements.
Duty To Accommodate Religious Beliefs
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. Under Title VII, the term “religion” is defined to include all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief. In order to protect the religious freedom of employees, Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of employees when they conflict with employment requirements, short of incurring an “undue hardship.” Thus, when an employee’s religious belief conflicts with an employment requirement, Title VII requires an employer to accommodate the belief, unless an accommodation would result in undue hardship. An employer’s duty to accommodate an employee’s religious belief requires, as explained by the court in EEOC v. Hacienda Hotel, 881 F.2d 1504 (9th Cir. 1989), that, “at a minimum, the employer . . . negotiate with the employee in an effort reasonably to accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs.”
Religious Discrimination Lawsuit
In Perticonea man named Perticone brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, Bell Motors, LLC (Bell Motors), pursuant to Title VII. Perticone alleges that Bell Motors violated Title VII by failing to accommodate his religious belief against making unsolicited sales calls on Sunday.
In September 2013, Perticone began working as a car salesman at Bell Motors’ dealership. This position required him to “prospect on a day-to-day basis by phone.” In practice, supervisors asked salespersons to contact prospective customers approximately every three days.
Bell Motors requires all of its salespersons to work on Sunday. Perticone is a Baptist who believes that Sunday is a day of rest for all people. When he interviewed for the position, Perticone informed his manager that he could work on Sunday, but that he would not make unsolicited sales calls on Sunday. His religious beliefs prevented him from interrupting others’ observance of the day of rest. The General Sales Manager, Stevens, and the Desk Manager, Lyons, were informed of this arrangement.
Threatened With Termination
On Sunday, September 1, 2013, Lyons told Perticone to make unsolicited calls to prospective customers. When Perticone objected, Lyons expressed frustration and left to get Stevens. Minutes later, Stevens arrived and stated something to the effect of “I do not [care] about your religion. Get on the phones, or you are fired.” Perticone was not otherwise forced to make the calls. Intending to file a complaint, Perticone called a human resources representative, Jordan, later that day. He left a voicemail requesting a call back about an interaction with his supervisor that morning. Jordan never returned Perticone’s call.
On September 4, 2013, Stevens called Perticone into his office to discuss his performance. At the end of the meeting, Stevens told Perticone that he had listened to the voicemail Perticone left for human resources. Stevens directed Perticone to report any further complaints to him, not to human resources. When Perticone asked what to do if he needed to file a complaint against him, Stevens smirked and said, “We’re done. Get out.”
On September 20, 2013, Perticone witnessed a co-worker, Hah, scratching his name off the rotation list for new customers. When Perticone confronted him, Hah admitted to doing it and suggested that they could handle the disagreement with a physical altercation outside. Perticone immediately quit his employment with Bell Motors.
Failure To Accommodate
Bell Motors filed a motion with the trial court seeking the dismissal of Perticone’s religious discrimination claim. In seeking dismissal, Bell Motors argued that because it never forced Perticone to make unsolicited sales calls on Sunday and Perticone never made those calls on Sundays, Perticone could not establish a lack of accommodation. The trial court denied Bell Motors’ motion for dismissal and ruled that Perticone has presented sufficient evidence to establish that Bell Motors failed to accommodate his religious belief to proceed to a jury trial.
In denying Bell Motors’ motion for dismissal, the trial court concluded that “the fact that [Perticone] never made an unsolicited sales call on Sunday does not require a finding that [Bell Motors] actually accommodated his religious belief.” In support of its conclusion, the trial court pointed out that Perticone presented evidence that Stevens threatened to fire him if he did not make those calls. Thus, the trial court determined that a reasonable jury “could conclude that [Perticone] refused to make those calls despite [Bell Motors’] failure to accommodate.”
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Citrus County, FL Employment Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment law attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you have experienced religious discrimination in the workplace or have questions about an employer’s obligation to accommodate your religious beliefs, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment law lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.