Two workers at a Kellogg Co. plant in Utah are suing their employer for religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. When the plant shifted the work schedule in 2011, all employees had to take turns working every other Saturday – something not allowed by the plaintiffs’ religion. The two are members of the Seventh-Day Adventists who observe Sabbath from sunset on Fridays to sunset on Saturdays.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their race, sex, color, national origin, and religion. It covers employers with 15 employees or more as well as employment agencies and labor organizations. It also includes private and public colleges and universities, and federal, state, and local governments. Discrimination is barred from all aspects of the employment process from hiring and firing to pay, promotions, benefits, training, and retirement plans. Retaliation against workers who speak out or file charges against discrimination is also prohibited.
Although the plaintiffs tried to use paid time off and find co-workers to cover their Saturday shifts, this was not always possible. The Kellogg’s plant has a point system that tracks unannounced absences, tardiness, and early departures. Over the course of the year following the schedule change, the two workers accumulated enough points that they were fired from the plant in 2012.
Kellogg Co., maker of breakfast cereal and other prepared foods, says the company’s duty to accommodate religious requirements of the employees was fulfilled and that the workers were not fired because of their religion. The founder of the company, W.K. Kellogg was himself a Seventh Day Adventist who invented corn flakes.
Appealing for a Trial
The plaintiffs lost their first lawsuit attempt in U.S. District Court when a judge ruled for Kellogg Co. and dismissed the case without a full trial. The judge found that the company had reasonably tried to accommodate the workers’ religious needs, but could not go further without incurring undue hardship. The workers appealed to the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Denver. There, the decision was overturned and the case remanded for further deliberation. The three-judge panel unanimously decided that while Kellogg Co. should not have won the case, a jury must decide whether there was sufficient evidence to prove that the company’s accommodation of the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs was reasonable.
In a press release, the Seventh Day Adventist church applauded the appellate court’s decision to remand, saying that it was critical for Americans to have the right to adhere to their religious beliefs in the workplace.
Marlton Employment Discrimination Lawyers at McOmber & McOmber, P.C. Represent Victims of Religious DiscriminationDiscrimination in the workplace is still a problem despite the enactment of Title VII more than 50 years ago. Workers who experience discrimination on the job should contact an experienced Marlton employment discrimination lawyer at McOmber & McOmber, P.C. as soon as possible to discuss their legal options. Call us today at 856-985-9800 to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. From our offices in Marlton and Red Bank we proudly serve clients throughout the state, including those in Middletown and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.