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Texas Roadhouse beats religious bias lawsuit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

When an employee’s religious needs clash with an employer’s scheduling demands, courts often take the worker’s side. But a Nueces County jury recently turned the tables, deciding that the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain had acted appropriately to accommodate an employee’s request for time off to practice his religion.

Eduardo Ortiz sued the restaurant for religious discrimination after he was fired for refusing to work on a Sunday.

Ortiz claimed that when he was hired, he told managers at the Corpus Christi Texas Roadhouse that his religion required him not to work on Sundays. He said the restaurant agreed to accommodate him. But Texas Roadhouse disputed those claims, while acknowledging it routinely scheduled Ortiz to take his days off on Sundays and Mondays.

However, the restaurant said it required all employees to work on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, two Sundays that are among its busiest days of the year.

In fact, Ortiz had agreed to work three previous holiday Sundays because, he said, he was afraid of losing his job. However, on Father’s Day in 2008, he refused to come to work for a scheduled shift. The restaurant fired him, and he sued.

During the three-day trial, restaurant managers testified that Ortiz had agreed to work on the holidays at issue and that the restaurant even allowed him to clock in later than scheduled so he could attend church services. That was enough for the jury to exonerate Texas Roadhouse.

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