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EEOC Sues Lowe's Home Centers For Religious Discrimination

Home Improvement Store Refused to Accommodate Employee’s Sabbath, Federal Agency Charged

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. —Lowe’s Home Centers committed religious discrimination by requiring an employee to work on his Sabbath, and by harassing and retaliating against the  employee, causing him to lose hours, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday. The EEOC also pointed out that while Lowe’s  has an asserted policy for requesting religious accommodations, its workplace  policy and practice was to refuse to accommodate sincerely held religious  beliefs of its employees, in violation of federal law.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 2:10-cv-00063), filed in U.S. District  Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Northeastern Division, Lowe’s Home Center refused to accommodate a current employee of its Morristown, Tenn.,  store after he advised Lowe’s of his sincere religious belief as a Baptist  against working on the Sabbath, Sunday. The employee submitted two written requests for a religious accommodation  not to be scheduled for work on Sunday.

Lowe’s ignored the request for two months, the EEOC said, and then denied the request because Lowe’s said that it might create a hardship on other employees who might like to have Sundays off. After  this employee and others were reduced from full-time to part-time status, Lowe’s refused to allow the employee to apply for open full-time positions because of his sincerely held religious belief against working on the Sabbath.

Religious discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil  Rights Act of 1964, which re­quires employers to provide reasonable  accommodations for the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees as  long as no undue hardship is posed against the business. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to  reach a voluntary settlement. The  lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction prohib­iting this sort of  discrimination in the future and enjoin Lowe’s from continuing its policy and  practice of refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to its employees  based on sincerely held religious beliefs.

The EEOC also asked the court to order Lowe’s to reinstate the employee to  full-time status, providing the requested accommodation. Further, the EEOC asked the court to order  the company to provide back pay and compensatory damages for his non-pecuniary  losses, including emotional and psychological harm, as well as punitive  damages.

“The  law clearly requires that an employer demonstrates that it made some attempt to  accommodate the religious beliefs of its employees,” said Katharine W. Kores,  the EEOC’s director for the Memphis District Office. “To simply ignore the request for an  accommodation obviously fails to meet that test. Lowe’s has not shown that allowing the  employee off from work on his Sabbath, Sunday, would impose an undue hardship  on Lowe’s.”

Lowe’s Home Centers is a wholly  owned subsidiary of Lowe’s Companies, Inc. According to company information,  Lowe’s Companies, Inc., based in Mooresville, N.C., is the second largest home improvement retailer  worldwide and theseventh largest retailer in the United States. Lowe’s has approximately 1,657 home  improvement stores in the United States,  Canada, and Mexico and  employs more than 200,000 employees.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment  discrimination. Further information  about the EEOC is available on its web site at