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Press Release 01-26-2012

Ozarks Electric Cooperative Sued By EEOC For Religious Discrimination

Power Supplier Fired Jehovah's Witness for Wanting One Day Off to Attend Religious Convention, Federal Agency Charges

FAYETTEVILLE,  Ark. – Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corporation, an electric power supplier  located in Fayetteville, Ark., violated federal law by firing an  employee because of her religious practices, the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According  to the EEOC's suit (Case No. 5:12-cv-05014-JLH, filed in U.S. District Court  for the Western District of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division), Julia Solis, a  call center customer service representative and a Jehovah's Witnesses,  requested one day off to attend a religious convention. The company denied the request and finally  fired Solis for this, the agency said.

Such conduct violates Title VII of  the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees against discriminationbased  on religion and requires employers to provide employees with reasonableaccommodations  to allow them to practice their sincerely held religiousbeliefs. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to  reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The EEOC has asked the court to  grant a permanent injunction enjoining Ozarks Electric from engaging in any  further employment practice that discriminates against employees because of  their religious beliefs and requiring the company to reasonably accommodate the  religious beliefs of employees. The EEOC  has also asked the court to order the company to provide relief to Solis,  compensatory and punitive damages and any other relief the court deems  necessary and proper.

"This employee's request was so  modest and minor it is astounding the company not only refused it, but also  fired her." said Katharine W. Kores, district director of the EEOC's Memphis  District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas,  Tennessee and portions of Mississippi.  "Employees should never be forced to choose between their religion and  their job."

Ozarks Electric Cooperative  Corporation is a not-for-profit corporation that supplies electric power to its  members in Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma. According to its  website, it serves more than 62,000 homes, farms, businesses and industries in  parts of Benton, Crawford, Franklin, Madison and Washington counties in  Arkansas, and Adair, Cherokee, Delaware and Sequoyah counties in Oklahoma.

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