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Employers Must Make a Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Beliefs or Show That an Accommodation will Cause an Undue Hardship

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Employers Must Make a Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Beliefs or Show That an Accommodation will Cause an Undue Hardship

In Maroko v. Werner Enterprises, Inc., Yabesh Maroko, a devout Seventh-Day Adventist, brought a Title VII claim for religious discrimination against Werner Enterprises.  This was a pretty straightforward case, as it was evident that Werner made very little effort to accommodate Maroko’s religious beliefs.

In 2006, Maroko enrolled in a school to become a truck driver.  While there, a recruiter from Werner came to speak to the students about working there when their schooling ended.  Maroko was interested, so he spoke to the recruiter and also told him about his inability to work on the Sabbath (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday).  The recruiter assured him that would not be a problem, and could be accommodated.

After completing his schooling, Maroko was hired by Werner and commenced an internal training program.  During his training, Maroko again informed his supervisors of his Sabbath-work restriction.  He was again assured that his religious beliefs could be accommodated.  While still in training, Maroko was assigned to Werner’s Tomah, Wisconsin facility, which provided dedicated delivery services to Wal-Mart across eight Midwestern states.  Shortly before his training ended, his supervisor there informed him that Werner could not accommodate him because Friday night and Saturday were the busiest times of the week for Wal-Mart deliveries.  Thereafter, Maroko was not assigned any deliveries.  Ultimately, Werner terminated Maroko, claiming that he had abandoned his job.

The Minnesota federal district court noted that in order to establish a claim for religious discrimination for failure to accommodate, a plaintiff must show that he has:  (1) has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement; (2) informed the employer of this belief; and (3) was disciplined for failing to comply with the conflicting requirement.  Once this is established (which the found that Maroko had), the employer must show that it offered the plaintiff a reasonable accommodation, or that accommodating the plaintiff would result in an undue hardship.

The court found that it was unclear, based upon the evidence, that Werner had offered Maroko a reasonable accommodation, or that an accommodation would constitute an undue hardship for Werner.  It seemed pretty clear from the facts in the case, that Werner had not made much, if any, effort to accommodate Maroko.  As such, the case will be allowed to proceed to trial.

 

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