Company Fired Seventh Day Adventist After Refusing to Accommodate His Religious Beliefs, Federal Agency Charged
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--United Cellular, Inc., an Alabama corporation, violated federal law by subjecting an employee to religious discrimination by refusing to accommodate his religious belief as a practicing Seventh Day Adventist, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on June 27, 2013.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Charles Embry, a practicing Seventh Day Adventist, was hired by United Cellular in July 2011 as a full-time Authorized Service Center Technician and provided retail services to Sprint customers in the Huntsville, Ala. area. He explained his religious convictions during an initial interview, advising United Cellular of the need for the accommodation of not being scheduled for work on his Sabbath, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
In the fall of 2011, United Cellular began to schedule Embry for work on the weekends despite his request for an accommodation. When Embry continued to exercise his religious faith by honoring his Sabbath, United Cellular terminated his employment by telephone.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination. This includes requiring an employer to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion unless doing so would cause an undue hardship to the employer's business. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. United Cellular, Inc., Case No. CV-13-JHE-1207-NE) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, after an investigation was completed by the agency, and after the agency attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary and other relief, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement into the position the complaining employee previously held, and injunctive relief.
Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC's Birmingham District, said, "The law protects employees against religious discrimination and the Commission is committed to enforcing the full scope of Title VII's prohibition against all forms of religious discrimination concerning all faiths and in all industries."
"Title VII requires that employers grant reasonable requests to accommodate employees' sincerely held religious beliefs unless doing so does would impose an undue hardship for the employer." said C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office.
United Cellular is a Sprint Preferred Retailer, providing retail services and products to Sprint customers and acting as a liaison between customers and Sprint. United Cellular is headquartered in Irving, Texas and has over 100 retail locations in eleven states with approximately 598 employees.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov .