HR Administration

Religious Discrimination Claim Fails

By James Denis

May. 13, 2010

In 2006, Marilyn Waltzer, employed by Triumph Apparel Corp., requested that she be permitted to leave work early on Fridays from her Manhattan, New York, office to observe the Jewish sabbath, which runs from sundown on Friday until sundown Saturday.

Waltzer did not tell Triumph that she chose to observe the sabbath from her weekend home in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and wanted to leave work at 1 p.m., even though the time of sundown fluctuates through the year. Triumph offered Waltzer reasonable accommodations, such as working a four-day workweek with a commensurate salary reduction or leaving at 1 p.m. during the summer months and leaving at 3 p.m. during the winter months.

After Waltzer rejected these proposed accommodations, Triumph fired her. Waltzer sued Triumph in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging failure to accommodate and religious-based discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the New York City Human Rights Law.

Following a bench trial, the district court dismissed Waltzer’s claims. It held that Waltzer failed to show that she sincerely believed that she needed to leave work before 3 p.m. in order to observe her religion. Waltzer’s lack of candor with Triumph impeded her ability to establish her Title VII claim because she never revealed that her preferred form of observance required the several hours of time to commute from New York to Pennsylvania. Triumph offered reasonable accommodations to Waltzer and proved that it would suffer an “undue hardship” by allowing Waltzer, a supervisor, to leave work hours earlier than the rest of her staff. Waltzer v. Triumph Apparel Corp., SDNY No. 09 CIV 288 (2/18/10).

Impact: When requested, employers must consider making reasonable accommodations for an employee to observe religious beliefs, unless the accommodation would cause the employer to suffer an undue hardship.

Workforce Management, May 2010, p. 10Subscribe Now!

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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