Grocery store cashier Kimberly Bloom asked for Sundays off work for religious reasons. Although the store had a voluntary shift-swap system so employees could trade days with co-workers, Bloom told her boss that religious convictions prohibited her from working Sundays—or from asking co-workers to work for her.
The company offered to let her come in later so she could attend church services, but she said she didn’t go to church. Instead, she read the Bible and watched services on TV.
When Bloom failed to show up to work on two Sundays, the store fired her. She filed a religious discrimination claim with the EEOC. The store’s lawyers argued that the voluntary shift-rotation policy was a “reasonable accommodation” of Bloom’s religious needs. They also claimed that since Bloom didn’t go to church, her desire not to work the Sunday shifts was personal, not religious.
The court sided with Bloom, saying, “Church attendance or membership in a particular sect is not necessary to assert a Title VII claim.” The court also ruled that the company’s shift-swapping policy was not a reasonable accommodation in this case because Bloom sincerely believes it is a sin to work on the Sabbath or to “support” another person doing so. (EEOC v. Aldi, Inc., No. 06-01210 WD PA, 2008)
Advice: Don’t just fall back on existing policies when accommodating religious needs. Find out what the employee considers a reasonable accommodation—and be prepared to bend. Like it or not, courts often favor employees in these kinds of cases.
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