How Subjective Is “Reasonable Accommodation?”

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Hey Compliance Warrior!

Recently, a court case involving Quest Diagnostics potentially violating Title 7 has been filed. Quest employed a woman whom they fired because they felt they could no longer reasonably accommodate her religious scheduling. The woman in question is a Seventh-Day Adventist, a religious organization that observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday. Quest claims that her time off posed undue hardship on their company, and they can no longer accommodate her request.

Where’s the problem here?

Well, Quest had been accommodating this employee for about ten years already at this point. She did not change positions in the company, as she’s always maintained the post of a phlebotomist with them.

The lawsuit against them involves title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This act was created to prevent workplace discrimination based on gender, race, nationality, and religion. It was further amended in 1991 that not only could an employer not discriminate against those mentioned, but the employee could sue for compensatory damages, as is the case in the aforementioned lawsuit.

Directly from EEOC.gov it reads:

“…The text of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub. L. 88-352) (Title VII), as amended, as it appears in volume 42 of the United States Code, beginning at section 2000e. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 (Pub. L. 102-166) (CRA) and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (Pub. L. 111-2) amend several sections of Title VII. In addition, section 102 of the CRA (which is printed elsewhere in this publication) amends the Revised Statutes by adding a new section following section 1977 (42 U.S.C. 1981), to provide for the recovery of compensatory and punitive damages in cases of intentional violations of Title VII…”

After all of this, where do we draw the line? There are plenty of employers that have won cases against alleged discrimination. There are plenty that have lost, too.

Are we as employers ready to draw a line in the sand and say “after ten years, enough is enough” and take the fallout that comes of it?

There’s never going to be a perfect answer. Because business needs change, and laws vary. Often those laws are written in a vague, unintuitive language from the start. There is, however, common core decency that we can all follow. That we need to take care of our employees the best we can so they’ll take care of our business. After years of service, can we not continue two-sided loyalty to an employee? Can we choose to hire and accommodate new blood that is uniquely talented if it suits our business?

We have to be flexible. We don’t want to “burn and churn” our way through employees and resumes to end up with a workforce that is available & in no need of accommodation, but also doesn’t necessarily bring distinct skills, talents, and views to our workplace.

Continue to consider every angle in the hiring & retention process so that your business can thrive and Be Audit Secure.

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