Constructive Discharge Laws

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As you are aware, a lawsuit was recently filed by a former employee. The suit against us is being filed under the constructive discharge section of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In essence, the section states that we made working conditions completely intolerable for the employee, through some form of hostility, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or humiliation (Sommerville, 2007). Said employee quit after our policy change on expanded production floor operation hours. The former employee maintains that we made working conditions intolerable because we would be forcing him or her to work on a religious holy day. The key in this particular case, of course, is that the former employee is alleging religious discrimination based on the requirement of working certain days of the week that match holy or reserved days for their faith.

According to Title VII’s religious discrimination clause (eeoc.gov, 2011), we certainly have an obligation to our employees to provide reasonable accommodations, like flexible scheduling. If the employee could not work, for example, Friday evenings through Sunday in observance of the Jewish Sabbath, we certainly could have found several ways to accommodate the employee by transferring him or her to an appropriate position as one of the office staff. We could also have modified a production schedule to accommodate the employee. There are two potential accommodations that may have been able to assist the employee in continuing their career with us. With this in mind, however, we must also look to section 703.k.1.a, on disparate impact. In making accommodations, would we be seen as granting preferential treatment based on our former employee’s religion? That could also open the doors to suits from other employees if we would be seen as showing a bias towards that employee on grounds of religion, particularly if we tried to get other employees to cover the potential shift changes. According to Title VII, we need only...
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