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Constructive Charge Case
A CASE OF RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION?
Mr. Charles Wright, Chief Executive Officer (date)
From: Mr. Terence North, Manager, Elementary Toy Division
Re: Employee Constructive Discharge Claim
Our legal counsel, Atty. Edison Hawks, today informed the undersigned in writing that a former employee, Mr. Alfred Peterson, had filed a claim of constructive discharge against the company. Mr. Peterson resigned last week from his post at our Production Department when our new policy on shift work became effective. He based his complaint on the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit workplace discrimination against religion. Mr. Peterson alleges that the enforcement of the new policy on shift work is discriminatory in that it requires employees to work on Sundays, which his religion observes as a holy day. Prior to this new policy, production employees worked from Mondays to Fridays only. Attached is the memorandum sent by Atty. Hawks.
It will be recalled that, as a consequence of company growth, management decided to change production work schedule at the beginning of the new year. The new work schedule policy now requires them to work on 12-hour shifts for four days a week with four days off. These four days of work can be any day of the week from Monday to Sunday. All production employees are covered by this new policy. Office staff members, however, retain the regular 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday to Friday work schedule.
As set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this refers to employment discrimination practices under Title VII (Business Laws, 2013). This Act explains that an employer can be charged with this practice when the working environment becomes so intolerable as to compel employees to resign. Several factors can constitute a breach of employment and translate into constructive discharge. In most cases, it results from any form of harassment by the employer (Business Laws).
A charge of constructive discharge can be filed by an employee if the employer changes working conditions in a way that causes significant distress to the employee (Business Laws, 2013). Mr. Peterson views the new policy on changed work days and hours by shifts as changes in working conditions that will deter his observing Sunday, his religion's holy day. Under this new policy, Sunday becomes a work day if chosen by an employee and, to Mr. Peterson, this is a form of harassment. He also resigned and correctly filed the complaint just a week after the new policy took effect because he found it intolerable and disrespectful of his religious practice (Business Laws).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees in the United States of America from all forms of discrimination in the workplace (EEOC, 2014). These include race, ethnicity, color, religion and gender as well as association with any of these. Discrimination may be intentional or unintentional. It is intentional when the discrimination or obstruction is done deliberately against a particular group of employees from equal employment. This practice is prohibited for qualifications not considered "mission critical" by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Intentional discrimination focuses on a specific group of employees by enforcing an unfair or prohibited employment standard. Unintentional discrimination, on the other hand, refers to an employment practice, which is inadvertent or may not appear outwardly biased but still disturbs or creates unfairness in the work environment (EEOC).
B. Relevant Areas of Title VII to the Scenario
Discrimination against religion in the workplace is mentioned throughout the Title as prohibited (EEOC, 2014). Section 2000e-1 or Section 702 defines religion as inclusive of religious observance and practice and belief, except when the employer can adequately demonstrate his company's reasonable inability to accommodate such observance or practice without unduly damaging the conduct of his business. This prohibition does not extend to certain foreign individuals and employees of religious groups. But it is unlawful for any employer to hire or not to hire an individual on the basis of his religion. He may not limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants on the basis of religion. It is also unlawful to refuse to refer a person for employment on the basis of religion. It is unlawful for a labor organization to exclude, expel or discriminate against a member on the basis of religion and to limit, segregate or classify any member or applicant for membership on the basis of religion. An employer, labor organization, or a joint labor-management committee is prohibited from refusing apprenticeship or other training from any employee on account of religion (EEOC).
Seniority or merit system, quantity or quality of production, ability tests, compensation and minimum wages shall not be determined on the basis of religion (EEOC, 2014). No employer, labor organization or joint labor-management committee may grant preferential treatment to any employee or group of employees on the basis of race. In case of complaints, the complainant shall demonstrate that the respondent uses a given employment practice, which creates or violates his religion. The respondent-company must fail to demonstrate that the questioned practice is related to the job of the complainant and necessary for the business for the complaint to be valid. The complainant must demonstrate that an alternative employment practice is available but respondent refuses to adopt or take it. And if the respondent-company is able to demonstrate that the questioned practice does not create the violation charged, he shall not be required to provide proof of it being necessary for his business (EEOC).
. Research yields a number of examples of valid religious discrimination practices by employers. An interviewer who makes the final decision on a given application refuses to hire a qualified applicant for possessing or professing a particular religion or belief or no religion (Employee Issues, 2014). An office manager refuses to promote an employee despite high or suitable qualifications because the latter belong to a religion that is different from that of the office manager or the office manager favors a less qualified employee with the same religion as his. A supervisor rejects to request of an employee for a change in work schedule on a worship day meant to allow the employee to attend an hour of worship before going to work. An HR representative with the relevant authority ignores or rejects an employees request to wear the company's official dress code in order to wear the garment imposed by the employee's religion. The religious garment does not pose workplace safety risk or any undue work hazard. The repeated and malicious harassment of an immigrant co-employee with offensive name-calling, jests, or slurs on account of the immigrant's nature or religious garment although the immigrant has the permission to wear the garment in lieu of the workplace's official dress code. A group of employees sharing one religion behaves with hostility at the work environment by aggressively converting unwilling fellow employees of other religions even after refusing to be converted. And a director terminates a qualified department manager with a brilliant performance record only because the director considers the manager's wife a religious freak (Employee Issues).
C. Recommendation to the CEO as Company Response
Our company did not commit constructive discharge, as Mr. Peterson claims. First, EEOC (2008) states that workplace discrimination against religion or religious harassment must be based on religion. Our new policy was enforced on the basis of company growth. Furthermore, we have exercised reasonable accommodation, the first among the best employer practices, according to Section 12-!V, by allowing them to freely practice their respective beliefs. Second, a claim of constructive discharge must prove that we either mis-informed or deceived Mr. Peterson about the new work shift policy. We neither mis-inform nor deceive him or any other employee by informing them about it more than two months ahead of implementation. And third,…[continue]
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