Lesson from a recent court ruling in a religious discrimination case: Yes, companies must take reasonable steps to accommodate workers’ religious beliefs. No, they don’t have to provide accommodations that would impose a hardship on the organization.

The case involved a truck driver named Banayah Yisrael, who followed the Hebrew Israelite faith. His employer, Thompson Contracting, provided grading, paving, and utility services for transportation projects in eastern North Carolina.

Thompson operated on a normal workweek of Monday through Friday, but its operations were weather-sensitive and largely dependent on soil conditions.

In order to meet project deadlines and make up for days lost due to bad weather, Thompson’s employees were frequently required to work on Saturday.

Yisrael’s faith observed the Sabbath on Saturday, and he objected to working on that day. But when conditions dictated, Yisrael was asked to report to work. He was fired after missing several Saturdays when he was  scheduled to work.

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Yisrael filed a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC, claiming that Thompson had an obligation to accommodate his religious beliefs and allow him to take Saturday off.

The EEOC proposed three accommodations Thompson could have made; a federal appeals court rejected all three.

Here’s a rundown, from attorneys Kevin Ceglowski and David Woodward of the law firm Poyner Spruill:

First, the EEOC argued that Thompson could operate without Yisrael on Saturdays. The court rejected this proposal because if Yisrael wasn’t at work, the company would be forced to hire independent contractors, order other employees to do his work or not get his work done at all.

Second, the agency argued that the company should have had substitute drivers to cover for Yisrael’s absences. The court said the cost of maintaining a stable of substitute drivers was an undue burden.

Finally, the court ruled that Thompson wasn’t required to offer Yisrael a transfer, since, in earlier discussions, Yisrael had indicated he wouldn’t accept one.

The case is EEOC v. Thompson Contracting.

The post EEOC’s suggested accommodations would be hardships, court rules appeared first on HR Morning.

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