An Expensive Lesson in Religious Discrimination

By Kathleen Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

A press release issued by the EEOC caught my eye this week because it involved the settlement of a lawsuit that would have been so easy to avoid. According to the press release, XPO Last Mile, Inc., a logistics company that specializes in the delivery of items such as office furniture, home furnishings and fitness equipment, will pay $94,541 and furnish significant relief to settle a federal religious discrimination lawsuit. What did this company do that resulted in the payment of an over $94,000 settlement? It rescinded a job offer to a Jewish employee who could not work on Rosh Hashanah.

According to the EEOC’s suit, XPO Last Mile’s operations manager offered an applicant a dispatcher/customer service position at its Elkridge, Md., office and told him his start date would be on Oct. 3, 2016. When the applicant told the operations manager he could not start work then because he celebrated the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah on that date, the operations manager replied that he thought it would be acceptable for the applicant to start on Oct. 4. Later that evening, however, the market vice president called and told the applicant that the company would not give him a religious accommodation.

The EEOC filed suit and alleged that XPO Last Mile violated federal law when it revoked its offer of employment because the applicant was unable to work on Rosh Hashanah due to his religious beliefs.

How could the company have avoided this lawsuit and the payment of an over $94,000 settlement? It should have given the employee the ability to not work on his religious holiday without the risk of losing his job. Even though he was newly hired, the employee was entitled to an accommodation of his sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would pose an undue hardship to the employer. It is hard to imagine that moving this guy’s start date one day due to a religious holiday would have been an undue hardship for the company. More likely, someone who is not well-versed in federal employment law got bent out of shape because a new hire was already “asking for a day off.” That person, and the company, have learned an expensive lesson.

Kathleen Jennings, Principal is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in sexual harassment and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

©2018 Wimberly Lawson

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