Greenville Ready Mix Concrete, a North Carolina company based in Winterville, violated federal law when it refused to provide a religious accommodation for and then fired an employee who is a Seventh-day Adventist, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a religious discrimination lawsuit it filed today.
According to EEOC’s complaint, since 2007, Michael Cole worked as a truck driver, most recently at Greenville Ready Mix’s Winterville facility. In February 2014, Cole was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist. Cole’s faith requires him to refrain from working for hire on Saturdays, specifically from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, in observance of the Sabbath. Cole’s regular schedule did not include Saturday work.
Shortly after his baptism, Cole asked the company to excuse him from working on Saturdays because of his religious beliefs. According to EEOC’s complaint, Greenville Ready Mix scheduled Cole to work on Saturday, March 22, 2014. When Cole notified the company that he could not work that day based on his religious beliefs, the company discharged him for that reason, EEOC said.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to attempt 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 after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with the company through its conciliation process. In its complaint, EEOC seeks back pay, along with compensatory damages, punitive damages and injunctive relief.
“Employers need to ensure that their supervisors and managers who are called upon to make decisions on employees’ requests for religious accommodations are fully knowledgeable of the employer’s obligations under federal law,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Many decision makers seem to forget that, unless providing a reasonable accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the company, the accommodation must be provided. No person should ever be forced to choose between his religion and his job.”
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.