Advocacy Group Fired Employee Who Requested Off on His Sabbath, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE - The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the largest organization of blind and low-vision people in the United States, will pay $25,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal religious discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Joseph R. Massey II is a practicing Hebrew Pentecostal, a Christian denomination, who abstains from working from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday based on his sincerely held religious beliefs. EEOC charged that about two months after Massey started working as a bookkeeper at NFB's Baltimore office, management told Massey he would have to work certain Saturdays. Massey explained that he could not work Saturdays due to his religious beliefs and requested a reasonable accommodation, such as working on Sundays or working late on week nights other than Fridays. NFB refused to provide any reasonable accommodation and instead abruptly fired Massey because of his religion, according to the lawsuit.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs unless doing so would impose an undue hardship. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. The National Federation of the Blind, Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-02484-GLR) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $25,000 in monetary relief to Massey, the 30-month consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins NFB from engaging in religious discrimination, including failing to provide a reasonable accommodation. The federation will implement and disseminate to all employees a detailed policy against religious discrimination. NFB will train all managers and supervisors on Title VII's prohibitions against employment discrimination, with an emphasis on the religious discrimination protections, and will post a notice about the settlement.
"The 21st century workforce is increasingly diverse, so employers must be prepared to address requests for a reasonable accommodation," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "It is in everyone's best interest when managers talk to an employee about his or her request for religious accommodation and explore options that will keep someone employed, such as adjusting a work schedule to allow the observation of the employee's Sabbath, instead of jumping to termination."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "We are pleased that the federation worked with us to provide compensation to Mr. Massey and to provide equitable relief that ensures that applicants and employees will not be subjected to religious discrimination in the future."
EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Its legal staff also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.