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PRESS RELEASE
10-9-19

EEOC Sues Center One for Religious Discrimination

 Call Center Company Refused to Accommodate Religious Beliefs and Practices of Employee, Federal Agency Charges

Pittsburgh - Center One, LLC, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based call center company with operations in Pennsylvania and New York, violated federal law by refusing to provide religious accommodations for an employee's religious observance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, in October 2016, a call center employee at Center One's Beaver Falls, Pa., location, who is an adherent of Messianic Judaism, sought a reasonable accommo­dation of his religious beliefs and practice that he abstain from work on days of religious observance. The lawsuit states that Center One imposed disciplinary points against the Messianic Jewish employee for his absences in observance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Center One required that the employee provide a certification from a religious leader or religious organization "on letterhead" as a precondition of granting him time off as a reasonable accommodation and imposed disciplinary points against the Messianic Jewish employee for his absences in observance of those religious holidays, the EEOC said.

The Messianic Jewish employee was not a member of a congregation at the time of his requests, but supplied other documents supporting his need for the religious accommodation. The EEOC charged that Center One wrongfully persisted in its demand that the employee provide certification from a religious leader or organization and forbade the employee from taking any additional days off for upcoming religious holidays. The employee was compelled to resign due to Center One's refusal to accommodate his sincerely held religious beliefs, according to the suit.   

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and mandates that employers provide reasonable accommodations, such as excused absences, for the sincerely held religious beliefs and practices of their employees unless it would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Center One, LLC, Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-01242) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, after first attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"Title VII's prohibition of religious discrimination -- and its mandate that employers reasonably accommodate workers' religious beliefs and practices -- embody our country's founding principles of religious freedom and tolerance," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. "They reflect our belief as a nation that workers should not be forced to choose between their faith and their jobs."

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie Williamson added, "Employers and employees should be flexible and cooperative when considering a religious accommodation. A worker doesn't necessarily have to be a member of a congregation or obtain certification from a religious leader to be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. In this case, once the employee explained his sincerely held religious belief and needed religious observances, Center One should have granted an accommodation instead of forcing him to quit."

The lawsuit was commenced by the EEOC's Pittsburgh Area Office, one of four component offices of the agency's Philadelphia District Office. The Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.