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Joe Polley

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interoffice memorandum to: | James Smith; CEO, Big Toy Co. | from: | Joe Polley; Division Manager, Big Toy Co. | subject: | John Doe – Constructive Discharge Claim | date: | February 22, 2014 |
On January 13, 2014, John Doe (“Doe”), a production employee at the Dayton, Ohio facility, tendered his voluntary resignation claiming religious discrimination. Doe, up until his resignation, worked for Big Toy Co. in a variety of positions for over twenty years with no recorded employment or discipline issues. On January 19, 2014, Doe filed a claim against Big Toy Co., citing constructive discharge under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The claim specifically relates to his belief that he “…had no choice but to quit” because his religious beliefs were not being respected.
Background
Employment records show that Doe had worked the same schedule as a production worker at the Dayton, Ohio facility for fifteen years prior to his resignation. Doe’s schedule was Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm. Because of Big Toy Co.’s growth, beginning January 1, 2014, the entire production staff’s schedule was changed, and they are required to now work 6:00am to 6:00pm, four days on, four days off on a continual rotating basis. However, the production office staff remains on the 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday schedule.
When Doe tendered his resignation to the shift supervisor, the question was asked why he was quitting. His response was the fact that the new schedule for production employees did not allow him to attend his weekly religious activities, as he was able to while on the ‘old’ schedule. Additionally he stated that he felt that his religious beliefs were not being respected due to the new work schedule.
According to Doe’s supervisors, at no time did Doe request either an alternate schedule, or did he ever ask for any of his co-workers to trade shifts with him in order to attend his holy day functions.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Protected Category
According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), religion is a protected category under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Statutes). Furthermore, the EEOC defines religious discrimination as “…treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs” (Types of Descrimination).
The core question that needs to be answered is whether religious discrimination occurred or not against Doe. In order to prove this, a prima facie case must be established by Doe, and until that happens, the burden does not switch to Big Toy Co (Turpen v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas R. Co., 1984).
It is an uncontested fact that Doe is a religious man. This is proven through interviews with his former co-workers, who also know Doe outside of work. The problem that Doe has establishing the prima facie case is the fact that he never made Big Toy Co. or any of Doe’s supervisors aware of the conflict he was facing with being required to work on his Sabbath days (Anderson v. General Dynamics Convair Aerospace Division, 1978). If this notification had occurred, Big Toy Co. would have had the chance to attempt to accommodate Doe in a reasonable manner.
Constructive Discharge Relevance to Doe’s Claim
The United States Department of Labor defines states that constructive discharge “…is when a worker’s resignation or retirement may be found not to be voluntary because the employer has created a hostile or intolerable work environment or has applied other forms of pressure or coercion which forced the employee to quit or resign” (eLaws - WARN Advisor Glossary).
Doe is claiming that his religious beliefs were not being respected because the new work schedule would require him to work on his religions holy days, while the old schedule did not make that requirement. Under the ‘old’ schedule, Doe was able to celebrate all of his weekly religious holy days, which are every Sunday. While operating under the ‘new’ schedule, he would be required to work one to two Sundays per month.
Because Doe felt that his religious beliefs were not being taken into account by Big Toy Co., he felt like he had no other recourse than to terminate his employment. By definition alone, constructive discharge does apply to this claim. However, at no time did Doe either request an alternate schedule, or did he ever ask for any of his co-workers to trade shifts with him in order to attend his holy day functions.
In the case Tepper v. Potter (Tepper v. Potter, 2007), Martin Tepper, then an employee of the United States Postal Service (USPS), requested accommodations to not work Saturdays due to his religious beliefs. The USPS granted his accommodations, and for over ten years, other USPS employees would cover his Saturdays, without interrupting the rotating schedules of the other letter carriers. In 2003, budget cuts and reduced staffing levels forced the USPS to ask letter carriers to voluntarily cover Tepper’s Saturday shifts. This action caused a disruption in the rotating schedules of the other letter carriers. The affected letter carriers, with the support of their labor union made the decision to no longer cover Tepper’s shifts on a voluntary basis, thus requiring Tepper to work on Saturdays. This caused Tepper to feel that he was being discriminated against because of his religious beliefs and he terminated his employment claiming constructive discharge.
Eventually, the United State Court of Appeals ruled that the USPS was not at fault, and that the organization made every attempt to accommodate Tepper’s religious freedom. Unlike Tepper v. Potter, Doe did not attempt to try to have his schedule changed or covered by other production employees. Therefore, Big Toy Co. had no knowledge of a possible needed accommodation until Doe chose to voluntarily terminate his employment.
Recommendation
The recommendation is that the voluntary resignation be upheld due to the fact that Big Toy Co. was unaware of any issue with Doe’s employment disparity brought on by the new schedule policy. Big Toy Co. contends that there is a solid record of accomplishment of willingness to work with employees, in order to reasonably accommodate working issues. However, until these issues are brought to light by the employee, they remain wasted opportunities for the combined effort of the company and workers to better the day-to-day atmosphere of the workplace.
Additionally, it is recommended that Big Toy Co. re-address the ‘new’ schedule policy, and ensure additional communication be made available to all employees. This communication would directly promote more open dialogue among the worker and supervisor level in order to stem off any further instances such as this.

References
Anderson v. General Dynamics Convair Aerospace Division, 77-2180 (United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit September 7, 1978). eLaws - WARN Advisor Glossary. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2014, from United State Department of Labopr: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/eta/warn/glossaryall.asp#Constructive_Discharge
Religious Accommodation in the Workplace: Your Rights and Obligations. (2012). Retrieved February 22, 2014, from Anti-Defamation League: http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/civil-rights/religiousfreedom/religfreeres/ReligAccommodWPlace-docx.pdf
Statutes. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2014, from U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm
Tepper v. Potter, 06-4182 (United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit October 15, 2007).
Turpen v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas R. Co., 83-1493 (United State Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit July 19, 1984).
Types of Descrimination. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2014, from U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/religion.cfm

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