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Orthopedic manufacturer settles religious bias suit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Gaylord Inc. of Wadesboro will pay $55,000 to settle a former em­­ployee’s religious discrimination lawsuit against the orthopedic and sports medicine products manufacturing company.

The woman, who practices the Christian Holiness faith, worked for the company as a sewing machine operator.

She explained to her supervisors that her religion required her to abstain from work on four holy days a year: Passover, Pentecost, the Day of Atonement and the Last Great Day, a holy day foretelling the mass salvation of believers. In 2008, the Last Great Day was Oct. 1.

In the days leading up to the holy day, the woman requested the day off and explained her religion required her to attend church. In­­stead, Gaylord fired her, making the Last Great Day her first day of unemployment.

She filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging that Gaylord failed to accommodate her religious practices. The parties could not settle the dispute through the commission’s conciliation process, and the EEOC sued on the woman’s behalf. That’s when Gaylord elected to settle.

In addition to paying $55,000, Gaylord agreed to adopt a formal anti-discrimination policy and post it in all of its facilities. It will also conduct annual anti-discrimination training.

Note: Employers that refuse to accommodate an employee’s religious practice must provide evidence that doing so would constitute an undue burden. Without that evidence, the employee wins.

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