“Lowe's Home Centers committed religious discrimination by requiring an employee to work on his Sabbath, and by harassing and retaliating against the employee, causing him to lose hours,” the EEOC said in a release issued March 31.
According to the release, the Lowe’s employee, who is a Baptist, submitted two written requests for religious accommodation not to be scheduled for work on the Sabbath, Sunday. The release went on to say that the company ignored the requests for six months and then denied the request, stating, “it might create a hardship on other employees who might like to have Sundays off.”
Chris Ahearn, VP public relations, issued the following statement to HCN: “Because this is pending litigation, we are not able to comment on details of the suit. With that said, Lowe's has a deep commitment to diversity and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, veteran status or any other characteristics protected under the law.”
The EEOC suit claims that the employee was reduced from full-time to part-time status, and was not allowed to apply for open full-time positions due to the objection to Sunday hours.
In the suit, which was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Northeastern division, the EEOC asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting future discrimination and enjoining Lowe’s from continuing its policy of refusing reasonable accommodation to its employees based on religious beliefs. It also asked the court to order Lowe’s to reinstate the employee at full-time status and provide back pay and other damages for his non-pecuniary losses, to include emotional and psychological harm, as well as punitive damages.
"The law clearly requires that an employer demonstrates that it made some attempt to accommodate the religious beliefs of its employees," said Katharine W. Kores, the EEOC's director for the Memphis District Office. "To simply ignore the request for an accommodation obviously fails to meet that test. Lowe's has not shown that allowing the employee off from work on his Sabbath, Sunday, would impose an undue hardship on Lowe's."