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Press Release 09-27-2013

Maita Chevrolet Settles EEOC Religious Discrimination Suit

Agency Obtains $158,000 for Seventh-day Adventist Employee Denied Sabbath Observance

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Elk Grove car dealership Maita  Chevrolet has agreed to pay $158,000 and to implement preventive measures to  settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's investigation, Maita failed to  accommodate the religious practice of a Seventh-day Adventist employee, and  instead harassed, disciplined and discharged him because of his religion.  Anthony Okon, a Nigerian immigrant and a Seventh-day  Adventist, worked for Maita Chevrolet as a car salesman from April 2005 until  he was discharged in May 2007.  A key  tenet of his faith is to observe the Sabbath by refraining from secular work  from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.   The EEOC charged that the company persistently scheduled him to work  shifts during his Sabbath despite numerous requests from Okon and his pastor  explaining the requirements of their religion.   In addition, the EEOC alleged that Okon was harassed, denied work on  Sundays, and ultimately disciplined and discharged for taking leave to observe  his Sabbath. 

Title  VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion  and requires employers to accommodate the sincere religious beliefs or  practices of employees unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the  business.  After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through  conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC  v. Maita Chevrolet Geo, No. CV11-4815-JSC) in U.S. District Court for the  Northern District of California.  Alan  Reinach of the Church State Council also represented Okon, who intervened in  the lawsuit.

Under the court-approved consent decree settling the suit,  Maita will revise its personnel policy manual concerning religious  accommodation; train its managers, supervisors and human resources personnel on  this topic; and report to the EEOC all requests for religious accommodation or  complaints of religious discrimination.

"The EEOC's investigation found that Maita supervisors not only failed  to accommodate Mr. Okon's religious practice, but answered his requests with harassment,  discipline, and ultimately discharge," said EEOC San Francisco Regional  Attorney William R. Tamayo.  "Employers  must recognize the value of diversity in their workforce, including religious  diversity, and not harass or discriminate against those of different faiths or  religious practices."

EEOC San Francisco  District Director Michael Baldonado commented, "The law protects the religious  observances, practices, and beliefs of all employees, and requires reasonable  accommodation by employers.  Once  employers understand that obligation, a solution that meets the needs of both  the company and the employee can usually be found."

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