Christian Employee Discharged After Refusing to Work on a Holy Day
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Medical Specialties, Inc. d/b/a Gaylord, Inc. (Gaylord), a North Carolina corporation that manufactures, designs, and produces orthopedic and sports medicine products, violated federal law by failing to accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs and by firing her because of her religion, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division (EEOC v. Medical Specialties, Inc. d/b/a Gaylord, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:11-cv-00464), Evelyn Lockhart has been a follower of the Christian (Holiness) faith for the last 33 years. In accordance with her sincerely held religious beliefs, Lockhart does not work on certain sacred days, including all or part of what are known as “Holy Days,” “Annual Feasts,” and the Sabbath.
Lockhart was hired as a sewing machine operator for Gaylord in Wadesboro, N.C., in September 2006. In 2008, Gaylord required Lockhart to work on Tuesday, October 21, which for followers of Gaylord’s faith was a Holy Day known as the “Last Great Day.” When Lockhart refused to work that day because of her faith, Gaylord discharged her.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to the sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so poses no undue hardship. In its suit, the EEOC seeks back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Lockhart, as well as injunctive relief. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“Employers are obligated to provide a religious accommodation unless they can show undue hardship,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “An employee should not be forced to choose between her faith and her job. The EEOC remains committed in its fight against religious discrimination occurring in the workplace.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.