6th Circuit: Undue hardship showing In Title VII case refers to hardship on employer, not employees

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Crider v. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (6th Cir., July 23, 2012), a Seventh Day Adventist was fired from her position as one of the coordinators of the University of Tennessee’s Programs Abroad when she refused to perform work-related tasks from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  Particularly at issue was her rotating weekends with two others to monitor the emergency cell phone which students abroad could call in case of emergency. In a 2-1 decision in a Title VII religious discrimination case, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgement to the University. The majority held that Title VII requires reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs unless doing so would impose undue hardship on the employer’s business.  Hardship on fellow employees who are asked to switch shifts is not enough unless this would create an employee morale problem that affects the employer’s ability to operate its business. Genuine issues of fact remained for trial on the question of reasonable accommodation.  Judge McKeague dissented. [Thanks to Michael Masinter via Religionlaw for the lead.]