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Title VII Does Not Require an Employer to Provide an Employee’s “Preferred” Religious Accommodation


Tenth Circuit Reaffirms the District Court decision and Title VII’s guidance on reasonable accommodations

In Christmon v. B&B Airparts, Inc., the Tenth Circuit court agreed with Title VII that even if a religious accommodation is reasonable, it does not have to be the employee’s preferred accommodation.  In this case, Jerome Christmon, a Hebrew Israelite, requested to work his overtime hours on Sunday instead of Saturday, during his Sabbath.  B&B Airparts requires its employees to occasionally work overtime shifts on Saturday; however, instead of granting Christmon’s request to work on Sunday, allowed him to skip mandatory Saturday overtime shifts without any disciplinary action.

Christmon sued B&B Airparts in U.S. District Court [Kansas] alleging discrimination for failure to accommodate his religious practices claiming that they were required to provide him with overtime hours on Sunday.  The District Court disagreed and granted summary judgment in favor of B&B Airparts, holding that the company provided him with a reasonable accommodation by allowing him to miss his Saturday shifts. 
On appeal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the decision and explained that a “reasonable accommodation does not necessarily spare an employee from any resulting cost” and “may be reasonable even though it is not the one that the employee prefers.”  The court determined that B&B Airpart’s accommodation “allowed Mr. Christmon to avoid the conflict with his religious beliefs even if he lost the opportunity for overtime.” 

Employer Takeaway
During the evaluation of an employee’s accommodation request, keep in mind that the ultimate accommodation should effectively avoid the conflict between the employee’s religious practice and the company requirements.  However, it does not have to be the employee’s choice or free from any resulting cost to them. 

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.