EEOC sues Mesaba Airlines over Sabbath rules

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

The EEOC has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Laura Vallejos, a former customer service agent for Northwest Airlines’ subsidiary, Mesaba Airlines, based in Eagan. She claims she was fired for refusing to work past sundown on Fridays, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.

Vallejos says she told Mesaba at her interview she was Jewish. When she was scheduled to work during the Sabbath, she approached her managers and asked for a schedule change. Instead, the airline fired her.

The lawsuit claims Mesaba’s policy prohibiting employees from swapping shifts during their first 90 days of employment interfered with employees’ religious practices. The airline has since abandoned the policy, but the EEOC alleges it adversely affected numerous employees.

The lawsuit also cites instances of religious discrimination in the airline’s hiring practices.

“Employers must be aware that they cannot tell applicants to check their faith at the workplace door,” John Rowe, EEOC district director, told the Associated Press.

Final note: The EEOC recently announced that it was looking carefully at religious discrimination complaints and will devote substantial enforcement efforts to fight such discrimination. This case is an example of that new focus.

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