The Comfort Inn Oceanfront South in Nags Head has been charged with religious discrimination after it fired a woman who says her religion forbade her from working on Christmas Eve 2010.
Claudia Neal, a practicing Seventh-day Adventist, worked as a desk clerk at the hotel. In the past, managers had accommodated her need to be off work from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.
Hotel, however, juggled work assignments for Dec. 24, 2010, and scheduled Neal to work into the evening that day even though it was a Friday. She again explained her faith’s requirements and reiterated that managers had always accommodated her before. According to her complaint, that’s when she was fired.
She filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging the hotel failed to accommodate her religious beliefs. The commission attempted to resolve the dispute through its conciliation process, but the two sides never agreed. The EEOC has now filed suit against the hotel, alleging it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it fired Neal.
Note: Employers that discontinue accommodations (either religious or disability-based) will find an uphill battle in court. To win, they must demonstrate that the accommodation caused them an undue hardship—a difficult argument to make when they’ve already been accommodating the employee for some time.