Wal-Mart Settles EEOC Religious Discrimination Suit
Agency Obtains $70,000 for Mormon Worker Required to Work Sundays
SEATTLE – Retail giant Wal-Mart has agreed to pay $70,000 and implement preventive measures to resolve federal religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in 2009 an assistant manager at the Colville, Wash., Walmart faced discipline and threats of termination because of his observation of the Sabbath. A devout Mormon, the employee observes the Sabbath by refraining from work, and from 1995 to 2009, Wal-Mart accommodated his request for leave on Sundays. In the fall of 2009, the company revised its scheduling system and refused to continue accommodating him as it had done in the past and began to discipline him, logging each absence when he was unable to swap positions with other managers.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to the sincere religious beliefs of employees, as long as the accommodations do not pose an undue hardship. After an investigation by EEOC Investigator Bryne Moore, and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the agency filed suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart, Inc. Case No. CV-10-0338-RMP) in the Western District of Washington.
Following a settlement conference with a U.S. Magistrate Judge, the EEOC and Wal-Mart agreed to resolve the lawsuit with the entry of a consent decree that provides $70,000 in monetary and other remedies, including training to human resource personnel on the subjects of religious accommodation and anti-retaliation.
“No one should have to choose between their faith and their work,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo, whose office has jurisdiction over Washington. “Accommodating a long-time, dedicated employee is a sound business practice. And federal law clearly obligates employers to provide an employee with reasonable accommodation unless it poses an undue hardship. This settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution of the lawsuit.”
“When there is a conflict between religion and workplace practices, solutions can often be low or no cost, if you approach it flexibly and creatively,” said San Francisco District Office Director Michael Baldonado. “Don’t leave your supervisors and management in doubt about how to respond to a request for accommodation. Make it clear that failing to accommodate sincerely-held religious beliefs may put the company in violation of the law.”
According to www.walmartstores.com, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) employs more than two million workers at 8,400 retail stores under 55 different banners in 15 countries and had sales of $405 billion in fiscal year 2010.