An interesting ruling came out recently in a case known as Stanton v. Brennan, USPS, EEOC No. 0120172696 (2019). The employee, a Methodist, claimed that his religion prohibited him from working on a Sunday. While his employer found someone to work his Sunday assignments, it required him to attend three training sessions on a Sunday.  When he refused to attend, it fired him.  EEOC reversed the firing finding the employee made a legitimate religious accommodation claim. Here is how it analyzed the facts and applied the law in its own words–with some highlighting of critical passages by us.

Upon review of the record, we find that Complainant has established a prima facie case of denial of religious accommodation. The record establishes that Complainant has a bona fide religious belief that he must not work on Sundays. The Agency sought to assign him to work on Sundays as a backup to another PSE in order to complete the Amazon package deliveries. In addition, the Agency instructed Complainant to attend training on September 7, 14, and 21, 2014, which were Sundays. Complainant clearly provided the Agency with a letter indicating his belief and that he could not be tasked with the Sunday work assignment. In response, the Agency indicated that they found another employee to take on the regular Sunday assignment. However, the Agency still required Complainant to come to work on three consecutive Sundays to attend training, as well as indicate that he would be expected to work some Sundays as a backup to the other PSE. Accordingly, Complainant has shown that the Agency essentially denied his religious accommodation. The burden shifts to the Agency to prove it made a good faith effort to reasonably accommodate Complainant’s religious beliefs or that the accommodation could not be granted without imposing an undue hardship on the Agency’s operation. In the case at hand, the Agency indicated that it had a volunteer to perform the Sunday Amazon deliveries. However, the Agency still insisted that Complainant would be required to work on Sundays when needed as backup and required him to attend training on three consecutive Sundays. The Agency provided no reason for why the training could only occur on Sunday. In addition, the Agency did not provide any evidence regarding the availability of other employees rather than Complainant who could be used as a Sunday backup for the Amazon deliveries. As such, we conclude that the Agency failed to meet its burden of proving undue hardship in granting Complainant’s religious accommodation. Therefore, we conclude the Agency violated its obligations under Title VII. Further, based on Complainant’s failure to attend the training, Complainant was issued Removal. Specifically, the Agency indicated that Complainant was “irregular in his attendance,” citing to Complainant’s three AWOL Sunday assignments for 12 hours. Management witnesses indicated that the reasons for Removal were failure to follow instructions, irregular attendance, and AWOL. We find that these reasons were directly related to the Agency’s order to Complainant to attend training on three consecutive Sundays. The Customer Service Supervisor, who issued Removal,  specifically stated that the reason for the Agency’s action was that, “[Complainant] was on the schedule to work [attend the training] on Sundays, when he did not show up for work as scheduled he was charged AWOL.” As such, we find that Removal was inextricably intertwined with the Agency’s unlawful denial of religious accommodation. Therefore, we find that the issuance of Removal also constitutes a violation of Title VII.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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