Contractor Fired Seventh-day Adventist Because of His Sabbath Request, Federal Agency Charged
WINTERVILLE, N.C. - Greenville Ready Mixed Concrete, Inc., a North Carolina company based in Winterville, will pay $42,500 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. EEOC charged that the contractor violated federal law when it refused to accommodate an employee's religious belief, and then fired him because of his religion, Seventh-day Adventist.
According to EEOC's complaint, since 2007, Michael Cole worked as a truck driver for Greenville Ready Mixed. Cole's Seventh-day Adventist faith requires him to refrain from working for hire on Saturdays in observance of the Sabbath. The company's facilities were usually closed on Saturdays and employees only worked Saturdays on limited occasions. According to EEOC's complaint, the company asked Cole to work on Saturday, March 22, 2014. When Cole said he could not work Saturdays based on his religious beliefs, the company failed to accommodate him and then discharged him for that reason, EEOC said.
Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs of employees absent undue hardship. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Eastern Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Greenville Ready Mix Concrete, Inc. Civil Action No. 4:16-cv-00094-BO) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with the company through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary damages, the five-year consent decree settling the suit requires the company to create an anti-discrimination policy and provide annual training on Title VII's protection against religious discrimination. The five-year consent decree also requires the contractor to post a notice to its employees about the lawsuit and to provide periodic reports to EEOC regarding how it responds to requests for religious accommodations during the decree's term.
"We are pleased with this settlement," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "EEOC hopes that this case serves as a reminder to employers that unless providing a reasonable accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the company, the accommodation must be provided. No one should ever be forced to choose between his religion and his job."
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.