TO: Bob Smith, CEO
FROM:, Elementary Division Manager
DATE: January 21, 2014
SUBJECT: Title VII Employee Claim
A claim has been filed by a former employee under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The claim is that due to a recent policy change that requires employees to work four days consisting of twelve hours each then be off for four days was discriminatory based on the fact that employees would have to work on a religious holiday.
Constructive Discharge and Its Relationship To This Claim
In resolving this claim, courts may use what is known as constructive discharge. In this case the complainant would have to prove that the decisions were made solely to force them to ...view middle of the document...
This is based on the employment at will doctrine (Gallagher), and all states except Montana are employment at will states (How To Win a Wrongful Termination Suit). All that said, if the employer does not reasonably accommodate an employee’s request for religious observance, the burden of proof falls on the employer to prove it would be an undue hardship to the business.
Relevant Areas Under Title VII For This Claim
From the claimants perspective some things they will bring forth in Title VII to try to substantiate their claim will be related to adverse impact which is essentially that the aforementioned schedule changes affects someone with their particular religious beliefs more unfavorably.
The complicating factor of Title VII is that a lot of it is left to interpretation. For the most part all courts rely on what is known as the reasonable person test. This is usually simply defined that a reasonable person would find that the decision around the schedule changes made the conditions intolerable for this employee. In the defense of the business the most common usable defense for this particular case would be business necessity. This would be that there was a business purpose for the practice. If it is found that business purpose was key to the operation of the business, even if it did adversely affect a minority group, may be justified. In addition courts should take into consideration whether this is an isolated incident. The only exception to the isolated incident rule is if the complaint is an egregious instance of discrimination.
Generally speaking the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would oversee such complaints. According to their website the law generally requires complainants to try to settle the complaint through the administrative complaint process before filing a lawsuit. It even goes as far as to say that before you pursue a Title VII complaint in court you must go through the administrative complaint process (Filing A Lawsuit in Federal Court). This will usually result in something similar to mediation if the EEOC finds there is a discriminatory issue. If there is no resolution in the mediation then it is possible the EEOC will file suit or refer, in some cases, to the Department of Justice. Otherwise they may give the complainant a letter known as a right to sue, whereas the complainant will then have to bring their own charges (DBTAC - New England ADA Center).
How We Should Respond To The Claim of Constructive Discharge
Due to the costs and possible exposure of litigation I would recommend that the company mediate. This would be the option required by the EEOC, and if this complaint has not come from them it would be in the best interest of the company to attempt to resolve this directly with the complainant through mediation. There are several precedents set for similar cases brought in front of courts that seem to make this case subject to interpretation with no definitive result that may come...