A concrete company based in Winterville will pay $42,500 and establish an anti-discrimination policy to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of an employee who claimed he was fired because his religion prevented him from working on Saturdays.
Michael Cole said he was fired from his job as a truck driver at Greenville Ready Mix Concrete after he refused to work on a Saturday. In February 2014, Cole became a Seventh-day Adventist, whose members strictly observe the Sabbath on Saturday and refrain from paid work between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. Cole informed the company of his new faith, requesting to be excused from working Saturdays, according to the EEOC lawsuit.
The EEOC said Greenville Ready Mix was usually closed on Saturdays and that Cole had worked very few Saturdays before he was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist. When Cole was scheduled to work on March 22, 2014, he told the company he could not because of his religious beliefs. The company was required to make other arrangements under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the EEOC, but instead it fired Cole.
A lawyer representing Greenville Ready Mix said in June that the company disagreed with the way the government interpreted the facts in the case and planned to fight the lawsuit. The EEOC announced the settlement on Wednesday.
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In addition to the monetary damages and the anti-discrimination policy, Greenville Ready Mix agreed to provide annual training on religious discrimination for five years and provide periodic reports to the EEOC on employee requests for religious accommodations.
“EEOC hopes that this case serves as a reminder to employers that unless providing a reasonable accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the company, the accommodation must be provided,” Lynette A. Barnes, an attorney in the EEOC’s Charlotte office, said in a statement. “No one should ever be forced to choose between his religion and his job.”