U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Nursing Home Fired Jehovah’s Witness Because of Her Need to Attend Religious Services, Federal Agency Charged
DETROIT — An Ann Arbor, Mich., nursing home violated federal law when it fired a Jehovah’s Witness based on her religion and need for a religious accommodation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit (Case No. 2:11-cv-15407), filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Whitehall Healthcare terminated the discrimination victim, a Jehovah’s Witness from Ann Arbor, from her job as a certified nursing assistant due to her need to have Wednesdays and Sundays off to attend religious services.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees against discrimination based on religion and requires employers to provide employees with reasonable accommodations to allow them to practice their sincerely held religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking an injunction to prohibit the company from engaging in this type of discrimination in the future, as well as monetary relief on the behalf of the victim.
“An employer has a legal duty to accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs, plain and simple,” said Lauren Gibbs, trial attorney for the EEOC's Detroit Field Office. “Firing someone for asserting that right violates federal law against religious discrimination and only makes a bad situation worse.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.