Constructive discharge materializes when an employee's only option is to quit their place of employment due to the employer making working conditions unbearable. In the scenario with the religious employee, the employee made it clear that he/she cannot work on a holy day due to his/her religious principles that are guarded under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This mandatory shift forced on the employee created an unbearable condition in his/her workplace. Unbearable conditions may consist of: discrimination, harassment, or getting an undesirable modification in reimbursement or work for aims that are not professional.
Because the work shifts fell on days of religious observance for the employee and the company did not yield in providing an alternative shift, schedule, or option for the employee, he/she was faced with diminished work or to leave the job and quit thus creating an unbearable work condition. While employees who willingly quit are naturally not expected to obtain unemployment benefits as well as miss their right to prosecute the company for illegal firing, constructive discharge is an exclusion. If an employee feels he/she was required to leave a job due to the unbearable conditions made by the employer, he or she can file a wrongful termination suit against the prior employer. In this case, being obligated to quit is legally comparable to being illegally discharged.
Religious observance falls into the area under religion Title VII protects. Title VII safeguards all facets of religious adherence and practice including faith and outlines religion very generally for determinations of defining what the law encompasses. Because the issue in the scenario discusses religious observance, the employee has every right to claim the company created unbearable conditions. he/she is also right in stating the company created a problem where he/she could not work that was solely based on religious practices vs. performance.
B. Title VII
Religion is a protected category under Title VII. Religious observances or practices fall under "Religion" and include, for instance, attendance of reverence services, praying and prayer, dressing in religious clothing or symbols, exhibiting religious items, following particular dietary rules, preaching or other methods of religious communication, or nonparticipation in specific activities. Whether something such as a practice or observance is religious may be influenced by the employee's incentive. The similar practice might be performed by one person for religious purposes and by another person for strictly nonspiritual reasons like aesthetics such as tattoos and piercings. The employee practices no work on a holy day. Saturday for instance, is a perceived holy day where, for instance, Jewish people, do not work.
Discrimination based on religion within the meaning of Title VII could include, for example: not hiring an otherwise qualified applicant because he is a self-described evangelical Christian; a Jewish supervisor denying a promotion to a qualified non-Jewish employee because the supervisor wishes to give a preference based on religion to a fellow Jewish employee; or, terminating an employee because he told the employer that he recently converted to the Baha'i Faith (Neal, 2013, p. 178).
Equally, requirements for reasonable accommodation of a "religious" practice or belief could comprise of: a Jewish employee submits a request for a schedule modification so that she may attend church services on Good Friday; a Muslim employee asks the company for an exception to it's dress and grooming code so she may be allowed to wear a head cover, or a Hindu employee asking for accommodation to have a vegetarian option at a company party. These accommodations are reasonable and help the employee to continue adherence to their religious beliefs. Title VII, requires accommodation cost less than the burden.
C. Company Response
Title VII requires an employer, who has been properly notified of a need for a religious accommodation to then attempt to genuinely accommodate an employee whose religious practice clashes with a work obligation, unless doing so would generate any unjustified destitution. "Under Title VII, the undue hardship defense to providing religious accommodation requires a showing that the proposed accommodation in a particular case poses a "more than de minimis" cost or burden" (Neal, 2013, p. 182). The company needs to provide proof that either the employee did not put in a request for accommodation or that the company provided the employee with alternatives. As Neal states: "Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices" (Neal, 2013, p. 24).
Employers are not beholden to grant every single request for accommodation in respects to a religious belief or practice. "Title VII requires employers to accommodate only those religious beliefs that are religious and "sincerely held," and that can be accommodated without an undue hardship" (American Law Institute-American Bar Association Committee on Continuing Professional Education, 1988, p. 14). Normally employers do not question the sincerity of the employee on supposed religious observance/practice. Conversely if the employer has doubt on the employee's sincerity, the employer has the option of putting in an inquiry to confirm the need for accommodation request. Therefore the company can determine whether or not the employee suing for constructive discharge is indeed sincere in his/her beliefs. If he or she is not, the case could get dismissed as the employer would not have needed to make an accommodation. It is important for the company to look for proof of events and sincerity of the employee to determine if the case has grounds for dismissal.
The employee in question must prove prima facie or whether the company provided options for accommodation or not. In 2007, a comparable religious discrimination case, filed against a postal service, made news. "In this case Tepper v Potter, the plaintiff Martin Tepper, a Messianic Jew had been permitted to be avoid Saturday work to observe his religious holiday, the Sabbath" (Labor & Employment Law Practice Group, 2007, p. 1). The company provided Tepper with alternatives for Tepper to continue following his religious practices by offering some Saturdays off and giving him the option of using his vacation days on the Saturdays he did not receive off. He was also given allowance to exchange work days with others as an additional option. The company had proof of their accommodation options and the case ended up in favor of the postal service because Tepper was unable or unwilling to deliver burden of proof the postal service would not reasonably accommodate his appeal for Saturdays off without excessive hardship.
Another case proved the person was not behaving in a reasonable manner even though the employer did not make timely accommodations. "In the case of Lawson v. State of Washington, 2002; Gregory Lawson, a Cadet with the Washington State Patrol filed a constructive discharge complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a federal civil rights complaint regarding religious discrimination" (Lawson v. State of Washington, 2002, p. 1). In a third religious discrimination case, David A. Goldmeier & Terry Goldmeier v Allstate Insurance Company (2003), Plaintiffs Terry & David Goldmeier (the "Goldmeiers") (FindLaw, 2003, p. 1) claimed constructive discharge due to the company policy changing to enforce work on Saturday mornings. They are Jewish and celebrate the Sabbath. Because they resigned and did not prove prima facie, the case was dismissed.
There are several actions the toy company can make standard in their practices to avoid potential constructive discharge claim connected to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some options are as follows:
Include Staff Participants in Policy & Procedure Change. When a company includes employees in the process of changing company policy and procedure it allows the company to identify people who may be hesitant to the possible change along with allowing the company to make small alterations to the needs/wants of the staff while upholding the vision, mission and objective. It creates…