BUSINESS LAW: Religious discrimination found

2013-05-04T10:35:00Z BUSINESS LAW: Religious discrimination foundJames L. Jorgensen Times Business Columnist
May 04, 2013 10:35 am  • 

As noted in the past, federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.

In order to defeat a religious discrimination claim, the employer must establish a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its decision. Consider these facts:

An Egyptian-American Muslin was employed for five years. During his first three years, his performance reviews were “expected performance” “significantly exceeds” and “expected performance.”

The employee eventually became eligible for the training required for a promotion. He received a career evaluation indicating that his performance was satisfactory in all categories and that he would attend the training within the next six months.

The employee never attended the recommended training. Later, he received his lowest rating: “marginal performance.” According to the employer, “marginal performance” is the minimal level of acceptable performance. The employee believed he was treated unfairly because he is Muslim, and complained to his supervisor. The employer failed to officially investigate the complaint.

Eventually, the employer offered to put the employee on a performance improvement plan; however, the employee never received it. The employer also failed to follow its own guidelines to inform the employee of the reasons behind his alleged unsatisfactory job performance.

The employee prevailed in the inevitable lawsuit which followed. The court held that even the lowest evaluation qualified the Muslim employee for a promotion. It found that a similar situated non-Muslim employee received the training and the promotion, while the Muslim employee did not.

In this case, the court found that the employer’s reasons for denying the training were not credible. As a result, the employee prevailed in his religious discrimination lawsuit.

Opinions are solely the writer's. James Jorgensen practices law at Hoeppner Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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