File this one under “Hard to believe, but true.” A Boca Raton nursing home called Menorah House has fired a certified nursing assistant because she insisted on observing her religion’s Sabbath.
Philomene Augustin is a Seventh Day Adventist, a Christian faith whose adherents observe the traditional Jewish Sabbath of sundown Friday through sundown Saturday.
For 10 years, the home arranged Augustin’s schedule so she could be off on her Sabbath. But when the facility changed its policy and Augustin refused to work on Saturdays, she was fired.
She filed a complaint with the EEOC claiming she had been fired in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs as long as the accommodation does not pose an undue burden to the employer.
The EEOC investigated, but when attempts to mediate the dispute failed, it filed suit on Augustin’s behalf. Barring a settlement, the case will now go to trial.
Advice: Anytime you withdraw an accommodation, you had better be able to explain exactly why.
In this case, the nursing home accommodated Augustin for 10 years with no apparent undue burden. If an employer wants to make the argument that continuing the accommodation constitutes an undue burden, it better have evidence showing a high cost in money or inconvenience.
This sounds like an uphill battle for Menorah House.