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Religious Discrimination: Of Course You Get Sundays Off . . . Don’t You?

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Apr 25, 2006 | 0 Comments

This is a tale from New York, not New Jersey, but Garden State employers should pay attention.

Bradley Baker was employed by Home Depot. He was a full-time employee who worked 40 hours per week and received full benefits. Through religious instruction that he obtained before getting married, he became more strictly observant of his Baptist faith. He learned that Sunday, the Sabbath, was to be strictly observed as a day of rest. Accordingly, he requested from Home Depot the accommodation that he not be scheduled to work on Sundays. A succession of Home Depot managers and schedulers granted him the accommodation by giving him Sundays off.

Eventually a new manager took over Baker's store, one who was not as sympathetic to Baker's beliefs as her predecessors. She had him scheduled to work on Sundays, but offered him a limited accommodation: he would only be assigned Sunday afternoon shifts so that he could attend church in the morning. Baker explained that his request was based not just on church attendance, but on Biblical mandate: on Sundays, he could not work and be true to his faith.

Neither Baker nor the manager bent; litigation ensued.

In Baker v. Home Depot, decided on April 19, 2006, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld Baker's right to pursue his claim. It reversed the trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Home Depot and allowed the case to go to trial. The Second Circuit held that getting Sundays off based upon a sincere religious belief that work is prohibited on the Sabbath is an accommodation to which Baker may be entitled. It will now be up to a jury to decide whether Baker's stated belief is sincere and religiously grounded, and whether accommodating his belief will be an undue hardship for Home Depot.

We'll keep you posted if we hear anything more on this one.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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