Religious Discrimination – Employer Provided Reasonable Accommodation in Offering Transfer

In 2006, after working for six years at AT&T, plaintiff Miguel Sanchez informed his supervisors that he had become a Seventh Day Adventist, and requested an accommodation in his work schedule for permission to take Saturdays off in accordance with his new religion. In response, AT&T informed him that his position required he work on rotating Saturday shifts; alternatively, AT&T offered Sanchez two separate positions with the company, both of which would not require him to work Saturdays. These positions had comparable base salaries, but no opportunity to earn commissions like his current position, so he declined both offers. After a year of disputes regarding the Saturday schedule, Sanchez ultimately tendered his resignation in 2007 and sued AT&T in District Court in 2007, alleging religious discrimination in violation of Title VII.

In Sanchez-Rodriguez v. AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico, Inc. No. 10-2177, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the District Court’s dismissal of Sanchez’s claim in favor of AT&T. The court explained that it applies a two-part test for religious discrimination cases. First, the plaintiff must show a legitimate religious practice conflicts with an employment requirement and was the reason for the negative employment action. Sanchez successfully proved the first part of the test by showing that working on Saturdays violated his religion. Following this, the burden shifts to the employer to prove that it made a reasonable accommodation or that any accommodation would result in undue hardship to the employer.The court ruled that the efforts AT&T made, including offering Sanchez alternative positions with the company and permitting him to swap shifts with his co-workers when possible, constituted a reasonable accommodation of Sanchez’s religious beliefs.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU: If you are an employee and you believe you have been discriminated against because your religious practice conflicts with an employment requirement, and your employer has not made a reasonable accommodation, you may have legal recourse. If you are an employer, it is important for you to understand when and how to make religious accommodations for your employees to avoid violating Title VII.

Contact Muller Law or another employment lawyer to see how this case may apply to your situation.

By Chip Muller, Muller Law

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