Friday, October 29, 2010

Muslim Truck Driver Refuses to Deliver Alcohol - COTW #13

This week's employment law Case of the Week is a Title VII claim from a Muslim truck driver filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Complaint available here. The Plaintiff, Vasant Reddy, alleges numerous religion-based counts of religious discrimination.

Mr. Reddy is a Muslim truck driver who claims to have a "sincerely held religious belief that he cannot consume, possess, or transport alcohol or tobacco." Well, you probably see where this is going... his employer asked him to transport alcohol.  Remember, employers generally have an obligation under Title VII to reasonably accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of employees provided this can be done without imposing an undue hardship on the employer.

[As always, it's a little more complicated than that.  I recently appeared on the Proactive Employer podcast to discuss some of these issues in greater detail. Listen here.]

The employee refused, and the employer found another driver to make the run. Two days later the employee was terminated (actually, he alleges constructive discharge - resigning in lieu of termination). So what claims can we come up with from this fact pattern? Well, the plaintiff came up with three:
  1. "Religious Discrimination" - Essentially a Disparate Treatment claim alleging the employee suffered an adverse employment action (termination) due to his religion.
  2. "Failure to Accommodate Religious Beliefs" - The employee alleges that only 5% of the employer's deliveries contained alcohol and/or tobacco, and that an accommodation would not impose an undue hardship on the employer.
  3. "Retaliation" - Employee alleges that requesting the accommodation is a protected activity and that he was fired in retaliation for making the request.
As of today, these are only allegations in a Complaint. This case provides another example of conflict between religion and the workplace, and shows how that conflict can result in a variety of Title VII claims.

Hat Tip/Additional Coverage: Ross Runkel via Twitter; Randy Enochs's post in his Wisconsin Employment and Labor Law Blog; and Eugene Volokh's post on the Volokh Conspiracy.

Posted by Philip Miles, an employment lawyer with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania.