As our population becomes more diverse, it is becoming incumbent upon employers
to accommodate the various religious practices of their employees. In
fact, the law requires them to do so. One employer in North Carolina,
Food Lion, was hit this week by a employment discrimination
lawsuit filed by the EEOC alleging the North Carolina-based grocery retailer fired
an employee because he was unavailable to work on days he had to attend
Jehovah's Witness services and meetings.
Food Lion hired Victaurius Bailey on June 6, 2011, as a full-time meat
cutter at the grocer's Winston-Salem, North Carolina, location. Bailey
alleged he told his supervisor in advance of his religious requirements
that he would need to take days off of work on the weekend of June 24,
2011, to attend a Jehovah's Witness convention, the complaint says.
According to the complaint, Bailey is a minister and elder in his congregation
who had to attend church services at those times. "He also believes
that because of his faith and his position as elder, which is ordained
by Bible scripture, he must attend certain meetings related to religious
matters on Sundays and Thursday evenings, including theocratic ministry
school to help members of the congregation become effective ministers,"
the complaint says.
When Bailey was assigned to work at the grocer's Kernersville, North
Carolina, location, however, the manager refused to accommodate Bailey's
request and scheduled him to work on the days of the convention, the complaint says.
Bailey did not go to work those days and instead attended the convention.
On June 27, the manager from the Winston-Salem store told Bailey that
he was being fired because he was not available to work Sundays, according
to the document.
"Defendant failed to accommodate Bailey's religious beliefs and
discharged him because of his religion, Jehovah's Witness," the
The government seeks a permanent injunction enjoining Food Lion from discriminating
against future employees for their religious beliefs and court orders
forcing the grocer to enact policies and programs prohibiting the unlawful
It also seeks back pay and other compensatory and punitive damages for Bailey.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the New York City
Human Rights Law, prohibit discrimination against employees because of
their religion. Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an
applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs.
The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized
religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism,
but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.
The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment,
including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training,
fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
The law requires an
employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices,
unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations
of the employer's business. This means an employer may be required
to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow
an employee to practice his or her religion.
Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling,
voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications
to workplace policies or practices.