U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Home Improvement Store Refused to Accommodate Employee’s Sabbath, Federal Agency Charged
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. —Lowe’s Home Centers committed religious discrimination by requiring an employee to work on his Sabbath, and by harassing and retaliating against the employee, causing him to lose hours, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday. The EEOC also pointed out that while Lowe’s has an asserted policy for requesting religious accommodations, its workplace policy and practice was to refuse to accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs of its employees, in violation of federal law.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 2:10-cv-00063), filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Northeastern Division, Lowe’s Home Center refused to accommodate a current employee of its Morristown, Tenn., store after he advised Lowe’s of his sincere religious belief as a Baptist against working on the Sabbath, Sunday. The employee submitted two written requests for a religious accommodation not to be scheduled for work on Sunday.
Lowe’s ignored the request for two months, the EEOC said, and then denied the request because Lowe’s said that it might create a hardship on other employees who might like to have Sundays off. After this employee and others were reduced from full-time to part-time status, Lowe’s refused to allow the employee to apply for open full-time positions because of his sincerely held religious belief against working on the Sabbath.
Religious discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees as long as no undue hardship is posed against the business. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting this sort of discrimination in the future and enjoin Lowe’s from continuing its policy and practice of refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to its employees based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
The EEOC also asked the court to order Lowe’s to reinstate the employee to full-time status, providing the requested accommodation. Further, the EEOC asked the court to order the company to provide back pay and compensatory damages for his non-pecuniary losses, including emotional and psychological harm, as well as punitive damages.
“The law clearly requires that an employer demonstrates that it made some attempt to accommodate the religious beliefs of its employees,” said Katharine W. Kores, the EEOC’s director for the Memphis District Office. “To simply ignore the request for an accommodation obviously fails to meet that test. Lowe’s has not shown that allowing the employee off from work on his Sabbath, Sunday, would impose an undue hardship on Lowe’s.”
Lowe’s Home Centers is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lowe’s Companies, Inc. According to company information, Lowe’s Companies, Inc., based in Mooresville, N.C., is the second largest home improvement retailer worldwide and theseventh largest retailer in the United States. Lowe’s has approximately 1,657 home improvement stores in the United States, Canada, and Mexico and employs more than 200,000 employees.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.