EEOC Said Company Refused to Allow Employee to Attend Sunday Church Services
NEWARK, N.J. – Oil Company ConocoPhillips has agreed to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
In the suit (Civil No.07-6045 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New Jersey in Newark), the EEOC had charged that ConocoPhillips discriminated against Clarence Taylor, a long-term pipe fitter, at its Bayway Refinery in Linden, N.J., by refusing to grant his request for a religious accommodation. Taylor served as a deacon and lay leader in his congregation. In May 2006, Taylor was informed by the company that he was required to work a schedule that would make him miss Sunday services for two months. Despite Taylor’s requests, ConocoPhillips failed to accommodate him, and he was unable to attend Sunday church services during this time.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ and applicants’ sincerely held religious beliefs – as long as this does not pose an undue hardship to the company.
“I was very upset at having to miss church services for a couple of months and I am grateful that the EEOC took up my case,” Taylor said. “I sincerely hope that other employees at this company and beyond are better informed about their rights to explore seeking a religious accommodation following this case.”
The consent decree settling the suit, signed by Judge Katharine S. Hayden, provides for injunctive relief and policy changes at the company, including: revised equal employment policies and procedures, and related training for its managers and line employees. ConocoPhillips will also provide $20,000 to resolve the litigation, including relief for Taylor and a donation to a charity, as well as five days of additional leave time for Taylor.
“If reasonable alternatives exist, the law does not allow an employer to force an employee to choose between keeping his job and practicing his faith,” said District Director Spencer H. Lewis of the EEOC’s New York District Office, which has jurisdiction for numerous counties in northern New Jersey.
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Sunu P. Chandy added, “Employers are obligated to explore reasonable alternative arrangements to attempt to accommodate religious beliefs. There are many avenues available, including shift swapping, flexible scheduling to allow an employee to take off a portion of a work day to attend religious services, the transfer of an employee to a different assignment, or allowing an employee to take vacation time or unpaid leave.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.