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Sabbath Observance: Religious Discrimination

Senior Living Properties, LLC, owns 35 senior assisted living facilities in Texas.   Amanda Spalding an employee of three-year standing had been excused from any work on Sundays due to her Christian religious beliefs. The company hired a new administrator, Peggy Scruggs, who refused to abide by this previous arrangement and required Spalding to work on Sundays.  She told Spalding that God would excuse her from her religious obligations to refrain from work on Sunday because Spalding was working in the healthcare field. If not,  “there’s the door.”

Spalding filed a claim with the EEOC which filed suit on her behalf.  1:11-cv-192-C, U.S. District Court, N. D. Texas.  The EEOC contended that “requiring an employee to choose between her faith and the job to which she is dedicated is not only ill – advised management, but illegal.”

Senior living settled the case for $42,000 plus a consent decree dated March 15, 2013 which required that the company:

  1. amend its written antidiscrimination policy to provide that the employer must provide reasonable accommodations to employees based upon their religious beliefs, including Sabbath restrictions;
  2. conduct three years of annual training to employees concerning their protections against religious discrimination in the workplace and their right to reasonable accommodation; and
  3. post this new antidiscrimination policy for five years at Senior living’s corporate headquarters as well as at the particular facility in Sweetwater Texas where Spalding was employed.

Employers beware!

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Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

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