Press Release 07-20-2009

EEOC RESOLVES RELIGIOUS BIAS SUIT FOR SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST FIRED OVER OBSERVING SABBATH

Settlement With White Hall Nursing Includes Monetary and Other Relief

LITTLE  ROCK, Ark. – White Hall Nursing and Rehabilitation Center,  an elder-care facility in White Hall,  Ark., will pay $24,000 to settle  a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The  EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 5:08-cv-00185, filed in U.S. District Court  for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division) charged that White  Hall denied a religious accommodation to a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and  fired her because of her religious beliefs.  The CNA, who had worked at White Hall’s long-term care facility for over  a year, is a Seventh-Day Adventist, and her Sabbath is from sundown on Friday  to sundown on Saturday evening. Her  religious beliefs prohibit her from working on her Sabbath. After accommodating the CNA for over a year,  the facility suddenly refused to allow the employee to take off on her Sabbath  and then terminated her employment.

Title  VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination and  requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and  applicants’ sincerely held religious beliefs as long as this does not pose an  undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit  after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

In  addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit, approved  by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, enjoins White Hall from  discrimination on the bases of religion and retaliation. Further, the decree requires the company to  provide training to its supervisory and management personnel on religious  discrimination, to submit two reports to the EEOC on the training and any  future complaints of religious accommodation, and to post a notice reinforcing  the company’s policies on Title VII.

“An  employee should not be forced to choose between her religion and her job,” said  Faye A. Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office,  which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and Northern Mississippi. “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s commitment  to combat religious discrimination in the workplace.”

Over  the past decade, religion-based charge filings with EEOC offices nationwide  have almost doubled, from 1,786 in Fiscal Year 1998 to 3,273 in FY 2008.

The EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibit  employment discrimination. More  information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.