CHURCH LADY SMITES DOD
Score another one for all the Sunday church-going Christians in their battle to spend their Sabbath worshiping. This time DOD learned the hard way that it must offer a “reasonable accommodation” to allow employees to practice their religion and when they do not they can pay dearly. In this case more than $25,000 in damages.
The employee asked her employer, the Commissary at the Quantico, VA Marine base, for every Sunday off so that she could attend Sunday school, church services, and afternoon church meetings. When the agency only offered her flexible scheduling which would have given her some time on Sundays to attend services, but not all she wanted, she filed an EEO complaint. Although it took EEOC six years to process the case, it finally agreed with her because there was no evidence in the record that the agency had tried to find substitutes for the employee on Sunday. (See White v. Panetta, EEOC No. 0120103295 (February27,2012)
Although the Commission only found her out of pocket costs to be $300., it gave her another $25,000 because “. . . she suffered ‘a great deal of emotional stress’ by not being allowed to participate in Sunday worship for a thirteen-month period, and stated she spent “countless” hours being counseled by her pastor because of it.” EEOC was also bothered by the fact that she had to resign from several church leadership positions. It also brushed aside the DOD claim that damages be limited to $5,000. because its violation of law had only aggravated her pre-existing hypertension rather than caused it. The employee substantiated her claim of emotional stress by statements from her doctor, pastor and beautician, who dealt with her hair loss.
The Commissioned closed its decision by citing three similar cases where it also awarded $25,000. Siddiqui v. Department of Veterans Affairs; Parker v. Department of the Navy; and Utt v. United States Postal Service.