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Press Release 06-27-2011

Rent-A-Center Sued By EEOC For Religious Discrimination

Rental Company Fired Employee Over Sabbath Issue, Federal Agency Charged

WASHINGTON –  The Rent-A-Center store on Alabama Avenue in Washington, D.C. violated federal law when it  failed to accommodate a store manager's religious beliefs and then fired him  because of his religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According  to the EEOC's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (EEOC v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., Civil  Action No. 1:11-cv-01170), Ferdinand Charles, who  worked as a store manager for Rent-A-Center, is a Seventh-Day Adventist. Around June 2006, Charles decided to reaffirm  and strictly practice his faith, which includes a religious tenet that he not  work on his Sabbath, Saturday, before sundown.  At that time, in June 2006, Charles was manager of Rent-A-Center's Seat  Pleasant, Md.,  store. Charles requested that he be  excused from working on Saturdays before sundown as a religious accommodation,  but his request was denied. Thereafter,  Charles was transferred to the company's Alabama Avenue location in the District of Columbia,  and was granted the religious accommodation he had requested. For approximately three months Charles did  not work on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs. However, after the company realigned its  store districts around December 2006, Charles was again told that he would have  to work on Saturdays. When Charles  refused due to his religious beliefs, Rent-A-Center discharged him.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act  of 1964 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held  religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so poses no undue hardship on  the employer. The EEOC filed suit only  after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement with  Rent-A-Center. The EEOC seeks back pay,  reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive  relief.

"Employers must remember their duty  to provide an accommodation to the sincerely held religious beliefs of its  employees and applicants," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the  EEOC's Charlotte District. "An employee should not be forced to choose  between his faith and his job. This case demonstrates the EEOC's  commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace."

According  to company information, Rent-A-Center, Inc., America's  largest chain of rent-to-own stores, is headquartered in Plano, Texas,  and employs more than 18,000 people.

The EEOC is responsible for  enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is  available on its web site at