Hotel Fired Seventh-Day Adventist Employee Over Sabbath Issue, Agency Charged
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A hotel group which owns and operates the Comfort Inn Oceanfront South in Nags Head, N.C., has agreed to pay $45,000 and provide substantial additional relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC's suit charged that the hotel group refused to provide Claudia Neal, a Seventh-Day Adventist, with a religious accommodation of not having to work on her Sabbath, which is from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. Neal began working at the hotel in May 2009. Initially, Neal's request not to work on her Sabbath was honored. However, a change in management occurred in October 2010, and in November of that year, the hotel group refused to provide her with a religious accommodation, and fired her.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Eastern Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Landmark Hotel Group, LLC d/b/a Comfort Inn Oceanfront South; Dare Hospitality, LLC d/b/a Comfort Inn Oceanfront South; Jain and Associates, LP d/b/a Comfort Inn Oceanfront South; and JRS Partners, LLC d/b/a Comfort Inn Oceanfront South; Civil Action No. 4:12-cv-158) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to providing monetary relief to Neal, the hotel group will implement policies designed to prevent religious discrimination and conduct training on anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws. The hotel group will also provide reports to the EEOC regarding future requests for religious accommodation.
"Employers need to understand their obligation to balance the conduct of their business with employees' needs and rights to practice their religion," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "Where there is minimal impact on the business, those religious needs must be accommodated. No person should ever be forced to choose between her religion and her job."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.