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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
6-8-12

Whitehall Healthcare to Pay $35,000 to Settle EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

Health Center Refused to Accommodate Jehovah’s Witness’s Scheduling Needs, Federal Agency Charged 

DETROIT – Whitehall Healthcare Center of Ann Arbor, an Ann Arbor, Mich., skilled nursing and long-term care facility, will pay $35,000 to settle a religious discrimination suit filed by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. 

In its lawsuit filed in late 2011, the EEOC alleged that Whitehall discriminated again a woman, employed as a certified nursing assistant, because of her request for a religious accommodation.  The employee is a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, and she requested Whitehall not to schedule her to work on Wednesdays or Sundays so she could attend spiritual meetings and participate in field service as a part of her sincerely held religious belief.  Whitehall’s administrator fired her when she informed Whitehall that she would not be able to work on Sunday due to her religious obligations, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Whitehall Healthcare of Ann Arbor, LLC, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-15407) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. 

The approval of a consent decree by Judge Avern Cohn brings a formal end to the litigation between the EEOC and Whitehall.  In addition to paying $35,000 to the discrimination victim, the resolution requires the company to provide training to all employees regarding requests for religious accommodations, create a new religious accommodation policy and file reports with the EEOC regarding compliance with the decree’s requirements. 

EEOC Trial Attorney Lauren Gibbs, Supervisory Trial Attorney Kenneth Bird, and Regional Attorney Laurie Young led the government’s litigation. 

“Federal law is clear that employers must make a reasonable effort to achieve an accommodation to solve a situation like this,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Laurie Young.  “Doing so is the best way to avoid lawsuits like this.”  

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is responsible for processing charges, administrative enforcement, and conducting the agency litigation in Michigan and portions of Northwest Ohio. 

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.