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PRESS RELEASE
10-6-09

Yuma Hotel Sued by EEOC for Religious Discrimination

Manager Forced Employees of Oak Tree Inn to Participate in Prayer Services, Federal Agency Charges

PHOENIX -- Lodging Enterprises LLC of Arizona, which does business as Oak Tree Inn in Yuma, unlawfully permitted a manager to impose his personal religious beliefs on other employees, and failed to accommodate those employees who did not desire to participate, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a religious discrimination lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC’s suit, EEOC v. Lodging Enterprises LLC of Arizona dba Oak Tree Inn, Case No. CIV 09-2060 NVW, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, asserts that Oak Tree Inn threatened employees with reprisals or otherwise forced them to engage in a particular religious prayer ceremony in spite of their personal different religious views. The unlawful discrimination created a hostile work environment and denied employees reasonable accommodation for their religious beliefs, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of religion. The EEOC filed suit after exhausting efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement. The agency is seeking monetary relief including compensatory and punitive damages. The Commission is also seeking an injunction to prevent the Oak Tree Inn from discriminating further.

Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of EEOC’s Phoenix District Office said, “Employees have a right to their own religious beliefs or even no religious beliefs. But they should not be subjected unwillingly to a supervisor’s religious views and certainly should be free from coerced prayer sessions.”

Rayford O. Irvin, Acting District Director, added, “We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts. We encourage employers and employees to sit down together and find an accommodation that works for all parties involved. Employee freedom of and from religion must be protected.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.