FROM: Division Manager
DATE: October 27, 2008
RE: EEOC Discrimination Claim
A. Constructive discharge is explained in the University of Chicago Law Review this as such: “An employee who resigns after being subjected to unlawful discrimination is said to have been constructively discharged if a reasonable person would have found the discriminatory conditions to be intolerable.” (Finnegan, 1986) This is also known as the Reasonable Person Test, because to assist with legal decision making, it is asked of the situation: would any reasonable person in the same situation under the same circumstances feel like resignation was the only option. It is relevant to the scenario, because the employee claims that his/her resignation was due to unbearable work conditions which would require him/her to work on a religious holiday. The employee felt that there was no other option but to resign from the company after he/she was subjected to the required shift schedule change. Whether or not the scenario really does qualify as constructive discharge has the potential to greatly affect the company’s ability to defend itself, and has some bearing on the amount of liability and damages that the company may be required to pay.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964, and defines Equal Employment Opportunity and prohibition of discrimination and unlawful employment practices based on five categories: Race, Color, Religion, Sex, or National Origin. There have been several minor amendments since then. One important change that may affect the company is the 1991 amendment which provided for monetary compensation in certain cases of sexual discrimination, religious discrimination or discrimination due to a disability. Under Title VII, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against, segregate, refuse employment to, exclude from membership, to deprive of employment opportunity, or refuse training to an individual based on the five categories mentioned above. It is relevant to the scenario because the employee has filed a claim that the company has imposed a discriminatory work schedule him/her, due to a change in the company shift work policy that affected production employees. This potentially falls under the category of religious discrimination, which is defined by the EEOC as “treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs.” (EEOC, 2014) Under Title VII, if the change in scheduling is found to be discriminatory, then the company has engaged in illegal conduct and may be penalized. The employee may be entitled to back pay, and compensation for pain and suffering.
1. Upon receiving notice of the claim, the company should launch their own internal investigation alongside the EEOC investigation. This would include thorough examination of the claim itself, investigation of the specific facts of the claim, interviewing relevant employees, and auditing any documentation related to the facts of the claim (such as communications between the employee and employer regarding the issue). First, the determination needs to be made as to whether or not religious discrimination did in fact occur. Title VII considers the following to be acts of discrimination: treating applicants or employees differently based on their religious beliefs or practices subjecting employees to harassment because of their religious beliefs or practices denying a requested reasonable accommodation of an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices retaliating against an applicant or employee who has engaged in protected activity, including participation or opposition to religious discrimination (EEOC,2014)
Although the company may not have intended to discriminate against the employee, it is possible that they may still be held liable, because the amended work schedule required the employee to work on a religious holiday. In 2004,