Monday, August 8, 2016

Seventh-Day Adventist sues Wal-Mart for Failure to Provide Religious Accommodation

The Legal Intelligencer reports Wal-Mart Manager Sues Employer Alleging Religious Bias. The gist of the lawsuit is that the manager, a Seventh-Day Adventist, needs time off from "sundown Friday to sundown Saturday" to observe the Sabbath. Apparently, Wal-Mart had been providing the accommodation but a new HR person revoked it.

Logo used in commentary.
Does he have a case? Absolutely. Under Title VII, employers must reasonably accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees. A sidenote: a comment on the story states that "Seventh Day Adventists are a mainstream denomination, not a cult." This is irrelevant. Employers must accommodate "sincerely held religious beliefs" whether they are part of a mainstream religion, a "cult," or even singularly held beliefs by the individual employee. An adjusted schedule may be a mandatory reasonable accommodation.

Now, don't get me wrong, Wal-Mart is not without defenses. Most notably, employers may escape the obligation to accommodate religious beliefs if accommodation would impose an "undue hardship." It's worth noting that in the religious accommodation context, an "undue hardship" is generally little more than de minimis cost - as opposed to the higher burden under disability accommodation law.