National Federation of the Blind Sued for Alleged Religious Discrimination

September 1, 2015

The National Federation of the Blind, the largest organization of blind and low-vision people in the U.S., violated federal law when it refused to allow an employee to observe his Sabbath and instead terminated him because of his religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced on Aug. 21.

According to the lawsuit, Joseph R. Massey II is a practicing Hebrew Pentecostal, a Christian denomination, and abstains from working from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday based on his sincerely-held religious beliefs.

The National Federation of the Blind hired Massey for a bookkeeping position at its Baltimore office in November 2013. In January 2014, the Federation told Massey he had to work certain Saturdays.

Massey explained he could not work Saturdays due to his religious faith and suggested alternatives such as working on Sundays or working late on week nights other than Fridays. EEOC charged that the Federation refused to provide any reasonable accommodation and instead fired Massey because he could not work Saturdays due to his religious beliefs.

EEOC said such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. The National Federation of the Blind, Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-02484-GLR) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Employees should not have to choose between their jobs and their religious convictions when a religious accommodation will not unduly burden others,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Most religious accommodations are not unduly costly, such as allowing an employee to switch his schedule to observe his Sabbath. No employee should be forced to choose between earning a living and following the dictates of his faith.”

Source: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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