Hotel Group Fired Employee Over Sabbath Issue, Federal Agency Charged
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The owners/operators of Comfort Inn Oceanfront South in Nags Head, N.C., violated federal law when they failed to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and then fired her because of her religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Claudia Neal, who worked as a front desk clerk at Comfort Inn Oceanfront South, is a Seventh-Day Adventist. Neal observes her Sabbath from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. According to the complaint, in November 2010, the defendants’ managers scheduled Neal to work the evening shift on Friday, Dec. 24, 2010. Because the shift interfered with her Sabbath observance, Neal, who had previously been allowed to be off for her Sabbath by other managers at the hotel, explained that she could not work on that evening because of her Sabbath. The hotel managers refused Neal’s request and instead fired her.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, (EEOC 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) only after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages and reinstatement or front pay. The complaint also seeks injunctive relief.
“Employers must remember their duty to provide an accommodation for the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees and applicants,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “An employee should not needlessly be forced to choose between her faith and her job when there are reasonable ways to accommodate both the employee’s religious observance and the employer’s scheduling needs. This case demonstrates the EEOC’s commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”
According to company information, Comfort Inn Oceanfront South is a franchised hotel that is a part of the group of hotels operating under the umbrella of the Landmark Hotel Group, LLC, which has over 500 employees. LLC, Dare Hospitality, LLC, Jain and Associates, LP, and JRS Partners, LLC, a Hotel Group, collectively do business as the owners and/or operators of the Comfort Inn Oceanfront South.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.