The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Wheeler Trucking for allegedly denying a former employee religious accommodation.
According to the complaint filed by the EEOC, the company hired the former employee, who is unnamed, at its Lorain County, Ohio, location in October 2016. The former employee identifies himself as Middle Eastern and as an adherent of Torah Observant Christianity. His sincerely held religious beliefs include observing the Sabbath as a day of rest during which followers do not work.
During his employment with Wheeler Trucking, the man advised the company of his religious beliefs and asked it to accommodate him, including by not requiring him to work on the Sabbath, which occurs on Saturdays. The company concluded that it was reasonable to accommodate his religious beliefs by not requiring him to work on Saturdays.
The lawsuit alleges that throughout his employment, the former employee was subjected to harassment by co-workers and supervisors due to his race and religion. Forms of harassment included:
- Making racial/ethnical slurs
- Mocking his religious beliefs, including his observation of the Sabbath
- Criticizing and challenging his interpretation of the Bible, including but not limited to his beliefs about diet and appearance
- Ignoring and/or supporting unlawful harassing behavior
The harassment occurred repeatedly, often on a weekly basis, for a period of six continuous months or more, according to the complaint. The EEOC claims that Wheeler Trucking took adverse action against the former employee because he engaged in protected activity, including but not limited to exacerbated or continued harassment, denied religious accommodation and discharge.
In January 2021, Wheeler Trucking advised the former employee that he was required to work on Saturdays.
The man took the issue to the company’s human resources department. Ultimately, the company denied his request for religious accommodation regarding working on the Sabbath.
When the former employee opposed the harassment and emphasized the conflict between the requirement that he work on Saturdays and his religious beliefs, management said that his only option was to accept the work conditions or quit. During the same encounter, management became irate, gestured to the road outside the Wheeler Trucking facility, told the man to leave and said “F–k your religion,” according to the complaint.
The man was involuntarily discharged on Jan. 26, 2021. He eventually filed a charge with the EEOC claiming religious discrimination. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits retaliation, race discrimination and religious discrimination.
This past January, the EEOC issued Wheeler Trucking a letter of determination finding reasonable cause to believe the company had violated Title VII and inviting it to join the commission in a process of conciliation. However, the two parties were unable to reach an agreement. Consequently, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against the company in an Ohio federal court.
“Employers that fail to correct and prevent harassment must be held accountable,” Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said in a statement. “The EEOC is committed to remedying and preventing harassment because of race and religion.”
For more information on harassment, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/harassment. More information on race and religious discrimination specifically is available at https://www.eeoc.gov/racecolor-discrimination and https://www.eeoc.gov/religious-discrimination. LL