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Never, never on a Sunday

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Timothy Walker was hired in 1995 at the Lafayette, Ind., plant of Alcoa Inc., based in Pittsburgh. Walker also served as a pastor at an area church.

In May 1998, when he was appointed head pastor, Walker asked to be excused from work on Sundays. Alcoa granted his request until September 2005. At that time, 11 employees were excused from Sunday work because of religious beliefs, and three had requested the same accommodation.

But the company determined that it could no longer provide a blanket excuse from working on Sundays and still meet its production goals.

Following the decision, Walker failed to report for scheduled Sundays. He was progressively disciplined and finally terminated. He sued for religious discrimination.

Alcoa filed for summary judgment, arguing that it had offered Walker eight alternative accommodations, but he refused everything short of a permanent guarantee of Sundays off.

Granting every Sunday off, the company argued, would have “breached the collective-bargaining agreement, treated other employees unfairly, diminished overall morale, resulted in loss of productivity and increased wages, and created a tidal wave of similar requests.”

No sale: The judge found Alcoa’s alternative accommodations, such as using vacation, changing jobs or working later on Sunday, unreasonable. Requiring any work on Sunday, regardless of whether the hours conflicted with his church services, violated Walker’s Sabbath beliefs, the judge ruled.

The court further found that Alcoa could not show that its accommodations had imposed an undue hardship. The case heads to trial.

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