Company Fired Jehovah’s Witness for Declining to Work on Weapons, Federal Agency Charged
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Dresser Rand Company agreed to pay $110,000 and provide other relief to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced today.
According to the lawsuit, Harry Davis, a Jehovah’s Witness employed at Dresser Rand’s Painted Post, N.Y., location, had a religious objection to working on weapons of war. After he declined to work on a part destined for a submarine, Dresser Rand refused to accommodate his request to switch assignments to work on a different piece of equipment, and then fired him.
The EEOC charged that Dresser Rand’s actions violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in Rochester in September 2004 (EEOC v. Dresser Rand Co., 04-CV-6300, W.D.N.Y.). The case was settled before trial as a result of a court-supervised mediation process.
Under the consent decree submitted to federal Judge Charles Siragusa for approval, in addition to the monetary relief, Dresser Rand has amended its equal employment opportunity policy, will conduct anti-discrimination training and post notices about discrimination laws at its Painted Post facility.
“Title VII is clear: an employer has a duty to reasonably accommodate its employee’s religious beliefs as long as the accommodation is not an undue hardship,” said Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Allowing an employee to switch assignments can be a reasonable accommodation, and Dresser Rand could have avoided this problem if it had done so.”
Michael J. O’Brien, the EEOC’s trial attorney on the case, added, “We are pleased that EEOC and Dresser Rand were able to resolve this longstanding lawsuit.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.