(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi)
A Wal-Mart store manager who is a Seventh-day Adventist sued the company on religious discrimination grounds, claiming he was demoted for his observance of the Sabbath.
Plaintiff Gordon Fields filed his suit against Wal-Mart in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging that his employer, which previously accommodated his inability to work Friday evenings and Saturdays, rescinded that accommodation and issued him an ultimatum.
As a Seventh-day Adventist, Gordon observes a period of rest from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. While Gordon was originally allowed to take off on the Sabbath, according to his complaint, a new human resources manager told him that the company could no longer allow that for a manager, and he would either have to work on the Sabbath or be demoted in order to maintain his religious accommodation.
Fields’ lawyer, Jennifer Prior of Kraemer, Manes & Associates in King of Prussia, said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission initially tried to resolve the dispute, but no compromise was reached. The commission ultimately issued the plaintiff a right to sue letter.
“I’m surprised that Wal-Mart wasn’t willing to work something out at the EEOC level considering we have documentation that he alerted his supervisors of the issues regarding his religious accommodation,” Prior said.
Wal-Mart had not made any court filings as of press time. Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for comment Thursday,
Fields initially requested accommodation for his observance of the Sabbath when he was hired as an associate in the shoe department at Wal-Mart’s Norristown location in 2006, according to the complaint. The accommodation was granted, and remained from 2006 to 2014.
When Fields was promoted to assistant manager and transferred to the Wyncote store in 2014, he was assured by his former HR manager that his religious accommodation would continue, the complaint continued. Upon his reassignment to a new HR manager, that changed.
Fields complained to the new HR manager, who “denied his accommodation, stating that such an accommodation granted to a manager, would cause an undue burden on the business and the other managers. He also stated that he would not transfer Fields to any assistant manager trainee or assistant manager positions in his market, in order for him to receive his accommodation.”
According to the complaint, Fields received a poor performance report a week after he complained to management about the lack of religious accommodation.
P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.