Call Center Refused to Accommodate Applicant’s Sabbath, Agency Charged
ST. LOUIS – Convergys Customer Management Group, a subsidiary of the Cincinnati-based Convergys Corp., a global provider of customer management services, will pay $15,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC announced today. The EEOC charged Convergys with violating federal law by refusing to hire a call center job applicant who could not work on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Shannon Fantroy answered an online advertisement for a customer service position at Convergys’s call center in Hazelwood, Mo. Fantroy’s religious beliefs as a Hebrew Israelite require him to observe the Sabbath from sunup until sundown on Saturday. A recruiter for Convergys interviewed Fantroy and told him that he would have to work weekends. Fantroy informed the recruiter that he was unable to work on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs. The recruiter then told Fantroy that the interview was over unless he could work Saturdays.
Religious discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ sincerely held religious beliefs as long as this does not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Convergys Customer Management Group, 4:11-cv-00395-AGF) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the lawsuit, which must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Fleissig, provides for injunctive relief including training for recruiters on religious discrimination and accommodation law and a new procedure for recruiters that will allow applicants to request a religious accommodation once they are offered a job, and will require that the interview application process be completed even if the applicant informs the recruiter about the need for a schedule adjustment. In addition, all job applicants during the decree’s two-year term will receive written notice that they may be entitled to an accommodation.
“Mr. Fantroy never had a chance to discuss accommodation options because the recruiter simply cut him off once he stated that because of his religious beliefs he could not work on Saturday,” said Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney for the EEOC's St. Louis District Office. “Giving an employee an alternate schedule where hundreds of employees are available to cover the shift was not an unreasonable request. The new procedures, training and notice to applicants provided for in the decree should allow applicants to request and obtain a reasonable accommodation based upon their religious needs. Other call center employers around the country should take note of these requirements.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.