A Tennessee independent living community will pay $92,000 to settle a religious bias lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleges that the community required two employees to work on their Sabbath in violation of their religious beliefs.
According to the EEOC, Garden Plaza of Greenbriar Cove in Ooltewah, TN, operated by Century Park Associates, an affiliate of Life Care Centers of America, told two workers they would need to work on Saturdays as part of a new work schedule. The two employees are members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The workers refused to work on Saturdays but offered to work on Sundays, according to the lawsuit. Garden Plaza asked them to resign, which they did, the EEOC said.
Garden Plaza, the EEOC said, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“When an employee tells his employer his religious belief conflicts with a work policy, the employer has an obligation under Title VII to have a conversation with the employee to determine whether it may reasonably accommodate the employee unless it causes an undue hardship,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and part of Mississippi.
In addition to paying $92,000, Garden Plaza has entered into a two-year consent decree requiring the community to train its employees, including human resources and management personnel, on the requirements of Title VII. Garden Plaza also agreed to report to the federal agency any complaints of religious discrimination and requests for religious accommodations and to permit the EEOC to monitor its compliance with the decree.
The EEOC said it filed the lawsuit after trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. Garden Plaza denied any liability or wrongdoing, the agency said. A spokeswoman for LCCA told McKnight’s Senior Living that the company had no comment.