Employee May Not Refuse Religious Reasonable Accommodation Options


An employee who refused to consider or failed to take advantage of available accommodations for his religious need to not work on the Sabbath failed to state a claim under Title VII, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

In Patterson v. Walgreen Co., the employer shifted the employee’s regular schedule to minimize conflict with the Sabbath. But because of emergency operational needs, the employer could not guarantee that the employee would never be assigned to work on his Sabbath. The employee was permitted to swap shifts with other employees on those occasions. On one Sabbath, the employee was scheduled for emergency work. He contacted one employee, but when she could not swap with him, he failed to contact any of the others who were potentially available, and the work was not done. Afterwards, human resources suggested that the employee return to his prior position or seek another position that could better accommodate his Sabbath. He refused to do so, and after the employer determined it could not accommodate his absolute insistence to not work on the Sabbath, he was terminated.

The Eleventh Circuit found that the employer had met its obligations under Title VII by providing a regular work schedule that minimized the conflict with the employee’s Sabbath and by permitting him to find other employees to cover any Sabbath assignments. According to the Eleventh Circuit, the employer was not required to ensure that the employee could always swap his shift or to order others to work in his place. The court also noted the employee’s refusal to consider other options, such as a different job. As the court noted, the employer is not required to give the employee a choice of accommodations or his preferred accommodation, as long as an accommodation that is reasonable is provided.