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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Oklahoma Chicken Express Franchiser to Pay $15,000 to Settle EEOC National Origin Discrimination Suit

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Restaurants Exploited Class of Hispanic Cooks by Failing to Pay Overtime, Federal Agency Charged

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – NSC Chicken, LP, dba Chicken Express, will pay $15,000 and furnish other relief to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed on Sept. 30 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, six Chicken Express franchise locations in Oklahoma systemically failed to pay Hispanic cooks at overtime wages as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The EEOC said the cooks were singled out for the non-payment because of their Latin American national origin.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit, EEOC v. NSC Chicken, LP, and a motion seeking court approval of the proposed consent decree settling the case were filed contemporaneously on Sept. 30 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (Civil Case No. 5:14-cv-1056-HE) after the EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The court approved the consent decree on Oct. 1.

The EEOC sought monetary relief for Kennedy Zapet, who filed the initial discrimination charge, and 11 other Hispanic employees who were victims of this practice. The EEOC and the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) cooperated in their investigation of Chicken Express’s pay practices. During this cooperative investigation between the EEOC and the DOL and through a settlement with DOL, Chicken Express paid the affected employees back wages for their lost overtime.

The consent decree entered in the EEOC’s suit provides an additional $15,000 payment to 12 employees. Chicken Express will also take action to prevent future discrimination, including changing the company’s policy on setting wage and hour rates and overtime pay; posting an anti-discrimination notice to employees in Spanish and English; disseminating anti-discrimination policies to employees in Spanish and English; and providing anti-discrimination training to all management employees with supervisory responsibilities at each of the restaurants.

“This case is a stellar example of close cooperation between the EEOC and other federal agencies in investigating employer actions that violate statutes enforced by different agencies,” said EEOC District Director James R. Neely, Jr. “Such cooperation ensures the efficient enforcement of all applicable federal laws concerning employment and maximizes the likelihood that victims will receive all the relief to which they are entitled.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Andrea G. Baran said, “Although Chicken Express states it believed its pay policy was beneficial to Hispanic employees because they were assigned more work hours and claims it did not know such a practice violated the law, this policy resulted in lower wages for Latino workers. Employers cannot implement different pay schemes based on employees’ national origin.” Baran pointed out that the EEOC’s website provides comprehensive information about the nation’s employment discrimination laws and how to comply with them, including information for small businesses.

Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and human trafficking. Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is another of the EEOC’s six SEP national priorities.

The St. Louis District Office of the EEOC oversees Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and parts of Illinois. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov

EEOC Welcomes New Director For the Pacific Northwest

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Nancy Sienko Now at the Helm of Civil Rights Agency’s Seattle Field Office

SEATTLE — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week welcomed Nancy A. Sienko as the new director of the agency’s Seattle Field Office, with jurisdiction over the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington.

Throughout her 35-year tenure with the EEOC, Sienko has demonstrated a strong commitment to enforcement, education, and partnership. Sienko began her career at the EEOC as an investigator in the Milwaukee office, and has served the agency in a variety of positions, most recently as director of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office since April 2006. Extremely active in outreach activities, she has served on several boards and committees, including a three-year term as an executive director with the Denver Federal Executive Board.

“I am delighted to join the EEOC Seattle Field Office team in carrying forward the legacy of the civil rights movement at such a meaningful time,” said Sienko, who reported to the Seattle Office at the start of the federal fiscal new year in October. “The year 2015 will mark the EEOC’s 50th anniversary, which was established one year after the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. So I am happy to lead the agency’s work in the Pacific Northwest at such an auspicious but challenging time.”

Michael Baldonado, director of the EEOC’s San Francisco District, which includes the Seattle Field Office, said, “As Seattle Field Office director, Nancy’s quality, talents, and unique experience will be a great asset to the agency. She is an outstanding manager and leader, and we are glad to have her take the helm in fighting discrimination and championing equal opportunity throughout that important region.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.

Braun Electric to Pay $82,500 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

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California Company Failed to Address a Sexually Hostile Work Environment Created by a Manager, Federal Agency Charged

FRESNO, Calif. – Bakersfield, Calif.-based Braun Electric Company will pay $82,500 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. Braun Electric provides industrial electrical services for the oil and gas industry throughout California’s San Joaquin Valley.

According to the EEOC’s suit, a male manager at Braun’s Belridge, Calif., location continually subjected female workers to a hostile work environment since 2010. The EEOC said the manager made daily grotesque remarks of a sexual nature to female subordinates and made explicit sexual propositions on a continual basis. Braun’s management failed to adequately address reports of harassment, and supervisors failed to report incidents of harassment they witnessed. One female employee was forced to quit as a result of the ongoing hostile work environment, according to the EEOC.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in September 2012 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (EEOC v. Braun Electric Company, Case No. 1:12-cv-01592 LJO SMS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Pursuant to the three-year consent decree settling the suit, aside from the monetary relief obtained for the victims, Braun Electric agreed to retain an experienced, external equal employment opportunity monitor to review and revise its existing policies and procedures with respect to discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The company further agreed to provide annual training for all staff on employee rights with respect to gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation and provide additional annual training for supervisory staff on how to adequately address such complaints. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the decree.

“The policies, procedures, training, and monitoring that Braun Electric has agreed to put in place will go a long way toward protecting employees from harassment,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, whose jurisdiction includes California’s Central Valley. “We encourage employers to ensure proper handling of complaints of harassment.”

Melissa Barrios, director for the EEOC’s Fresno’s Local Office, added, “As agents of the employer, supervisors and managers should act as role models and promote an environment free of harassment. Employers should make sure that supervisory staff is trained not only on the laws against workplace harassment, but also on how to effectively prevent and address such issues.”

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

EEOC Sues FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., for Nationwide Disability Discrimination

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Shipping Giant Repeatedly Failed to Provide Needed Accommodations to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Package Handlers and Applicants, Federal Agency Charges

BALTIMORE – Shipping giant FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., (FedEx Ground) violated federal law nationwide by discriminating against a large class of deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and job applicants for years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

The EEOC says that FedEx Ground failed to provide needed accommodations such as American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and closed-captioned training videos during the mandatory initial tour of the facilities and new-hire orientation for deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants. The shipping company also failed to provide such accommodations during staff, performance, and safety meetings. Package handlers physically load and unload packages from delivery vehicles, place and reposition packages in FedEx Ground’s conveyor systems, and scan, sort and route packages.

The EEOC charges that, in addition to failing to provide communications-based accommodations for mandatory meetings, FedEx Ground refused to provide needed equipment substitutions and modifications for deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers, such as providing scanners that vibrate instead of beep and installing flashing safety lights on moving equipment.

These widespread failures to provide reasonable accommodations occurred despite FedEx Ground having longstanding knowledge that it receives applications from, and has employed, a significant number of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the package handler position throughout the country, including at facilities in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Maryland, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of disability. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with a disability unless the employer can show that doing so would be an undue hardship.

The EEOC’s lawsuit arose as a result of 19 charges filed throughout the country citing discrimination against deaf and hard-of-hearing people by FedEx Ground. The agency consolidated these charges and conducted a nationwide systemic investigation of these violations. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (EEOC v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-03081-WMN), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr, said “FedEx Ground failed to engage in an interactive process with deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants to address their needs and to provide them with reasonable accommodations. That’s why we filed this lawsuit — to remedy alleged pervasive violations of the ADA on a national level.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Common sense, let alone federal legal requirements, would dictate that FedEx Ground should have provided effective accommodations to enable people with hearing difficulties to obtain workplace information that is disseminated in meetings and in training sessions. EEOC contends that by failing to do so, FedEx Ground has marginalized disabled workers and hindered job performance. This is a ‘lose/lose scenario.’”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Maria Luisa Morocco noted, “The law is clear: Employers have to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing job applicants and employees are afforded equal employment opportunities – which includes the full benefits and privileges of employment, such as being informed of performance expectations and safety requirements.”

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against people with disabilities as well as other groups, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan. Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is another SEP national priority for the agency.

According to its website, http://about.van.fedex.com/fedex_ground, FedEx Ground had revenue of $11.6 billion in fiscal year 2014 and employed more than 65,000 people.

The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.

Are Contractors Entitled to the Same Protections and Benefits as Full-Time Employees?

By | Employment Law, Sexual Harassment | No Comments

Despite working for an employer for 40+ hours a week, contract employees are not entitled to the same protections and benefits as full-time employees.

I recently worked on a case where we represented a woman who had been sexually harassed by a co-worker. We sued the company for sexual harassment, and they responded that she was not an employee, but an independent contractor. They produced documentation proving the independent contractor agreement between my client and the company.

It said that as an independent contractor, the company would not do tax withholdings on wages, would not provide employee benefits, and would not cover workers comp.

Why was this documentation so important to this case?

You may not be able to tell them apart by looking, but there's a big difference between contractors and full-time employees.

You may not be able to tell them apart by looking, but there’s a big difference between contractors and full-time employees.

There are three groups of employers who are protected in regards to sexual harassment, or certain accommodations such as disability status and religious affiliation.

  • Full-time employees;
  • Part-time employees;
  • Temporary employees hired via a temp agency.

However, independent contractors are not protected in the same way because they are not employed by the company. There is a difference between working with a company and for for a company. It’s a subtle, but important, difference.

Sometimes it is can be contested whether an independent contractor worked as a true independent contractor or was treated as an employee. The Department of Labor has devised a test called the White Collar Test that looks at eight or ten factors of a person’s employment. It looks at how an employer controls the manner and methodology of work, such as does an employer require a company uniform, or do they set a required schedule the employee must follow? An independent contractor does not have to do these things, and can work wherever and whenever they want.

Unfortunately, my client was determined to be an independent contractor, and therefore not entitled to the same sexual harassment protections as if she had even been a temporary employee. The person accused of sexual harassment was given a slap on the wrist at work, and nothing else.

An interesting side note to this issue: while a contractor cannot sue if an employee harasses him or her, the reverse is not true. If an employee at a company is being harassed by the company’s independent contractor, and management does nothing about it when told about the problem, that employee has a right to sue.

For example, if the guy who fills the vending machines continually makes inappropriate remarks to the receptionist, and she tells her boss, who fails to respond, she can sue the employer. That’s because the contractor is contributing to a hostile work environment, which the employer is supposed to prevent.

If you have questions about sexual harassment, or believe you are being sexually harassed by a co-worker or boss, please contact the Cassis Law Office at (502) 736-8100.

Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse (Flickr, Creative Commons)

EEOC Sues The Lash Group for Disability Discrimination

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Consulting Company Fired Employee Because of Post-Partum Depression, Federal Agency Charges

BALTIMORE – The Lash Group, a Charlotte, N.C.-based consulting company, refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with post-partum depression and instead fired her because of her disability in violation of federal law, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Meron Debru worked as a reimbursement case advocate at The Lash Group’s Rockville, Md., facility when she went on maternity leave. She received short-term disability benefits while on maternity leave and advised the disability benefits carrier that she needed additional unpaid leave due to post-partum depression, the EEOC said. The Lash Group initially fired her, but later extended her short-term disability leave. When Debru was medically released to return to work, however, The Lash Group did not return her to her position as a reimbursement case advocate because it had filled her position.

The company refused to transfer her to vacant positions for which she was qualified as a reasonable accommodation and instead forced her to find and compete for vacant positions within the company. Debru applied for three vacant positions for which she was qualified, but The Lash Group instead terminated her because of her disability, in violation of federal law, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of disability. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with a disability unless the employer can show that doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division (EEOC v. The Lash Group, Civil Action No. 8:14-cv-03091-PJM), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“While pregnancy itself is not a disability under the ADA, some women develop pregnancy-related disabilities, such as post-partum depression, and are entitled to reasonable accommodations unless the employer can prove that doing so would be a significant expense or difficulty,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “It is incumbent on employers to provide reasonable accommodations for women who need them due to pregnancy-related disabilities, such as extending unpaid leave or transferring the employee to a vacant position for which she is qualified. Forcing an employee to try to find a new position within the company on her own does not meet the company’s affirmative obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation by transferring her to a vacant job.”

One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.

The Lash Group’s headquarters are located in Charlotte, N.C., with additional operational centers in California, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.

Kaiser Permanente to Pay $75,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

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Worker With Hydrocephalus Was Denied a Free Job Coach to Assist With Training, Then Fired, Federal Agency Charged

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States, will pay $75,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC, a food service worker at Kaiser’s San Diego facility has a medical condition, hydrocephalus, which causes difficulties with memory, dizziness and concentration. Upon hire, the worker requested additional training time and the assistance of a temporary job coach to effectively learn the job and perform the required job duties. A non-profit organization in San Diego specializing in assisting people with disabilities – Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) – was available to provide the temporary job coaching services free of charge to Kaiser.

The EEOC alleged that Kaiser chose to fire the worker rather than grant the reasonable accommodation request. In September 2013, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals dba Kaiser Permanente, Case No. 3:13-cv-02062-MMA-WVG), asserting that Kaiser had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The parties entered into a two-and-a-half year consent decree to resolve the EEOC’s suit. Aside from the monetary relief obtained for the victim, Kaiser agreed to appoint an equal employment opportunity coordinator to review and revise its existing anti-discrimination and accommodation policies and procedures. Kaiser further agreed to provide training on those policies and procedures to all staff, including managers, in its San Diego Service Area and to monitor and track requests for accommodation and terminations involving persons with disabilities.

Rachel Harris, executive director for Toward Maximum Independence, Inc., said, “Disability does not mean inability. Individuals are successful in the workplace when given support, reasonable accommodations, and, most importantly, when given the chance.”

“We commend Kaiser Permanente for agreeing to make changes that will ensure that its handling of reasonable accommodation requests is in compliance with federal law,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes San Diego in its jurisdiction. “So long as accommodations do not pose an undue hardship, employers must work with workers to ensure that effective accommodations are in place so that they may be fully successful in the workplace.”

Marla Stern-Knowlton, local director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “One would expect that a medical center, of all places, would be sensitive and understanding on the needs and challenges of an employee with a disability. And surely a major institution such as Kaiser, with all its resources and expertise, should have agreed to reasonable accommodations without such trouble. Regardless, the EEOC is always here to defend the rights of disabled workers.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

HiLine Electric to Pay $210,000 to Settle EEOC Age Discrimination Suit

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Industrial Supply Business Used Age Criterion in Hiring and Recruitment Practices, Federal Agency Charged

DALLAS – HiLine Electric Co., a Dallas-based industrial supply business, will pay $210,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The settlement resolved agency claims that the employer included an age-based criterion in its recruiting and hiring process.

According to the EEOC’s suit, an internal recruiter informed the agency that company executives provided her a form with a list of bulleted criteria/considerations for position candidates. This form included a printed text box, referred to as the “HiLine box,” listing an age-based hiring consideration. Upon receipt of additional information regarding instructions for screening, the EEOC alleged that the criteria HiLine used resulted in the non-selection of applicants who were over 50 and who appeared to be qualified for the position. Eight applicants, who were over 50 years of age when they unsuccessfully sought employment as territory managers, were identified as having been affected by the company’s practice.

Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 3:09-CV-1848-M) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Trial of this the case was scheduled to begin on Oct. 20.

A consent decree signed by Federal District Judge Barbara Lynn resolves all claims in the case. In addition to the monetary damages, the three-year decree also provides for injunctive relief such as training and a notice posting. HiLine agreed that it shall not in the future prepare, produce, publish or provide to any recruiter, manager, supervisor or any other employee, materials or lists of criteria in which chronological age or any proxy for age is a consideration for recruitment, hiring or promotion.

“Avoiding cookie-cutter workforces based on an age limit is something we hope all employers will guard against,” said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Suzanne Anderson. “Recruitment strategies should leave out age-based prerequisites, or preferences that potentially diminish the value of experience.”

Dallas District Director Janet Elizondo said, “We are pleased with the scope of the commitment that the company has made given the breadth of the multi-state regional areas it covers. This settlement represents a mutual recognition that well-rounded recruitment is the key to any employer’s efforts to find the best candidates for the job.”

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

Dollar General Sued by EEOC for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

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Tennessee-Based Corporation Allowed a Manager to Sexually Harass a Female Employee, Then Fired Her for Reporting the Abuse, Federal Agency Charges

ATLANTA – Dolgencorp, LLC. dba Dollar General, violated federal law by subjecting a female employee to repeated acts of sexual harassment on a daily basis and then firing her after she reported it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it recently filed.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Laveta Crawford was subjected to a barrage of lewd comments and gestures on a daily by a male assistant store manager at its Jonesboro, Ga., location. Although she complained, the harassment continued. Crawford then filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC and attempted to transfer to a different store to avoid further harassment. However, within a week after the EEOC mailed the discrimination charge to Dollar General, the company fired Crawford.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer through its pre-litigation process. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Ms. Crawford, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such harassment and retaliation by the restaurant in the future.

“No employee should have to endure harassment, especially on a daily basis,” said Bernice Williams Kimbrough, district director for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “Employers have an obligation to address and prevent sexual harassment, and to support, not further victimize, employees who complain about such misconduct.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.

How Do Employers Observe Non-Christian/Non-Government Holidays

By | Civil Rights | No Comments

Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day. Most companies, as well as all banks and government offices observe these holidays by closing down. However, there are other holidays that may be more important to some employees but are not observed: such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or Ramadan.

How can an employee participate in a holiday the company does not officially observe?

Jewish man in prayerThis question falls under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, which is the same law that protects people in the workplace, such as requiring employers to make accommodations for people with disabilities, and to refrain from discriminatory hiring. This same statute also protects discrimination on the basis of religion. Therefore, an employee’s request to take religious holidays off would follow the same general rules as a disability request.

First, an employee must request religious accommodation. If an employee asks for time off during the day to pray, an employer would have to consider it and make a concession. Other concessions may have to do with appearance. For example, Orthodox Jews maintain long sideburns, called the payot, and long beards, and cannot be required to shave or cut their hair by an employer.

Second, if no official announcement is made about a “non-government holiday” that an employee wishes to celebrate or honor, the employee must make a request and then the employer must make a reasonable accommodation. Religious accommodation requests are similar to disability accommodation requests in that an employer must make a reasonable adjustment, such as allowing the time off, or allowing for breaks for time to pray.

The employer has a couple options as to how they can compensate for the time off. The employee can be required to work on a holiday that he or she does not celebrate. Otherwise, if an employee has accrued paid time off (PTO), the employer can require he or she use that PTO for the holiday. Also, an employer cannot fire or retaliate against an employee for taking that time off.

However, just like the question of disability accommodation, if the religious holidays conflict with why an employer hired a person, the employer does not have to accommodate. An example would be hiring an employee to work only on the weekends, but the employee observes the Jewish sabbath from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Another example would be hiring an employee during the holiday season to help alleviate workload, but the employee asks for the entirety of Hanukah off.

In those cases, the employer does not have to grant the employee’s request, because accommodating it will mean additional work and cost to the employer, such as hiring another worker to pick up that missed work.

If you have any questions about how you or your employer should accommodate non-government/non-Christian holidays, please contact the Cassis Law Office at (502) 736-8100.

Photo credit: John St. John (Flickr, Creative Commons)