Clerk at Chico Store Forced to Choose Between Her Job and Her Faith, Federal Agency Charges
SAN FRANCISCO - Sacramento, Calif.-based supermarket chain Raley's violated federal law by refusing to accommodate an employee's request for work hours that did not conflict with her religious worship and then firing her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a workplace discrimination lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, prior to her hire as a courtesy clerk at Raley's Chico, Calif., store, Jennifer Webb explained very clearly to her employer that she was required to attend religious meetings twice a week as a Jehovah's Witness and would not be able to accept the job if she were asked to work Wednesday evenings after 5 pm and Sundays before 4 pm. The EEOC's investigation showed that for six months, her employer scheduled her in accordance with this accommodation. However, Webb was assigned to work from 2 pm to 11 pm the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2014, and when she requested a change, she was told that her religious accommodation "didn't matter" due to the Thanksgiving rush. Webb reported to work that Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. but when she again stated her need to leave by 5 pm to attend her religious meeting, she was terminated.
"My whole family was so thrilled when I got this career opportunity and I enjoyed my work," said Webb. "That's why it hurt so much to have to choose between my faith and my job. I would have been willing to work on Thanksgiving morning instead, but I never got a chance to raise it because they didn't want to discuss rescheduling."
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would cause undue hardship to the business. The EEOC filed suit (U.S. EEOC v. Raley's, Temporary Case Number 2:17-AT-00993) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks back pay and other monetary losses, compensatory and punitive damages for Webb, and appropriate injunctive relief to prevent any future discrimination.
EEOC San Francisco District Director William R. Tamayo said, "Federal law requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to work schedules and rules to allow employees to practice their religion, barring an undue hardship. Raley's clearly had the resources to have easily accommodated Ms. Webb by simply swapping schedules."
EEOC San Francisco Senior Trial Attorney Linda Ordonio-Dixon added, "In this case, Raley's refusal to provide a religious accommodation resulted in the loss of a good worker, and an EEOC lawsuit. Despite the claim that she was needed at work due to the Thanksgiving rush, our investigation showed that Raley's failed to make any attempts to reschedule or otherwise cover her hours."
According to its website, www.raleys.com, the privately held supermarket chain operates more than 130 grocery stores throughout California and Nevada under the names Raley's, Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods and Food Source, and employs approximately 13,500 employees in California alone.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.