Rules Apply to Everyone but Christians, Part 8: Denied a Job for Keeping the Sabbath Holy

Posted: January 3, 2015 in religion
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This one has several components to it, so let’s get right down to the story bo Joe Kovacs on September 17, 2014: “Dunkin’ Donuts Refuses to Hire Sabbath-Keeper.”

Note the way that headline is written. Already, it implies that “keeping the sabbath” is something good and should be protected, while Dunkin’ Donuts (which I keep wanting to write as “Doughnuts”) is horribly bad for infringing on that “right.”

And that’s really the main theme of the article. I’ll quote the few relevant parts:

[A] Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee … rescinded its job offer to a Christian man solely because he wanted to keep the weekly Sabbath holy, which is one of the Ten Commandments.

Darrell Littrell of Asheville, North Carolina, is a Seventh-day Adventist who holds the belief he cannot work on the Sabbath day, which he observes from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday.

After reading that selectively quoted part (selectively quoted for reasons you’ll read in a moment), my classic response is: You don’t have a right to be treated special in your job just because you don’t want to work on a certain day when everyone else who works at that job has to be able to work that day. That would be special privilege, rather than persecution for not allowing it. Plain and simple.

What makes this story have “several components to it,” and why I selectively quoted that first sentence, is this set of sentences (this time, the first sentence without the selective quoting):

The U.S. federal government is now suing a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee […]. […]

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Around Dec. 15, 2012, Littrell applied for the position of a donut maker at the Citi Brands’ manufacturing facility in Arden, North Carolina, and was later interviewed by the company’s plant manager.

“On Jan. 3, 2013, the plant manager offered Littrell the donut maker position, and told Littrell he would start work the next afternoon, a Friday, at 3 p.m.

“Littrell responded that he could not start work on Friday afternoon because as part of his faith, he does not work from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday. The plant manager responded by revoking Littrell’s job offer.”

The EEOC has now filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina against Citi Brands, LLC, the franchisee in question for Dunkin’ Donuts. The action comes after it first attempted to reach a voluntary settlement through administrative conciliation process.

The legal action is seeking back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Littrell, as well as injunctive and other non-monetary relief.

“Employers should be mindful that it is against the law to discriminate against an applicant or an employee based on his religion, including the observance of the Sabbath,” said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte district.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from refusing to hire people because of their religion, and requires employers to make an effort at a reasonable accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs.

Wow. I think I’ve written once or twice about the EEOC (yup— once when talking about hiring/firing due to sexual orientation), and it was favorable.

This, however, I think is out of line. Yes, you canNOT refuse to hire someone because of their religion or desire to celebrate certain religious days. But, I do not think a reasonable interpretation of that is to say you MUST hire someone even when their interpretation of their religion means they can’t work 14% of the time when anyone else in that position must be available to work during that time.

The third component of this story is that this is clearly a government regulatory agency imposing a lawsuit on a business. Which s the bane of most conservative causes (one of the major themes of conservatives in the US is smaller government, less regulation, corporations have more autonomy in general). Therefore, this seems like something that would generate some sort of cognitive dissonance.

And it did, at least a little, amongst the 1089 comments. Such as the top-rated one by “Just Me:” “To say that I’m stunned that the EEOC is defending a Christian would be the classic understatement.”

However, a few high-ranked comments are ones that support my points. Such as, “StampOutLiberalism” who wrote: “As a Christian, I appreciate this man’s conviction to his faith, but Dunkin’ Donuts has a business to run and if Mr. Littrell can’t fulfill the job requirements he should look elsewhere for employment. The Government shouldn’t be involved in this.”

Or Dave:

Strangely, I find myself on the side of the business this time, and not rooting for the Christian person. That’s because for Dunkin Donuts this isn’t a religious freedom issue at all.

1. They had a job opening in a certain time slot.
2. They hired a guy to work in that time slot.
3. The guy refused to work in that time slot.
4. Say goodbye to the guy, and go back to Craig’s List to fill the spot.

You’d have to think there’s something strange about a guy who would go through steps 1-4, and then add a fifth step — Blame the employer for offering him a job in a time slot that he refused to work.

  1. flip says:

    I disagree. I think it is discrimination. I can imagine that like most large corporations and retail stores, shift work is the norm. I think it would be fairly easy to create shifts that mean this man avoids Sabbath work and other people who are happy to work weekends could take those shifts. In addition, there’s probably no way to know ahead of time what day you’d start the job, and unless advertised most people would assume weekday work hours (ok yeah for a bakery job not so much). I can’t see how this is any different than going to a corporate job and them firing you because you wanted Christmas day off. While I can see the issue from the business’ POV, I also believe they could be more accommodating: exchange the man for a woman and Sabbath for finishing work in time to pick up her kids from school. In this day and age more people want flexibility in their work hours and those businesses who are seen to be working with that will hold onto their employees better. This is because we recognise that people shouldn’t be discriminated against purely because they have non-work priorities.

    • Stuart Robbins says:

      Christmas is a bad example because it’s a Federal holiday in the US, but I can see your point. I do think that there’s a difference between reasonable accommodation and not, and IF you are told (not clear in this story) that you need to be able to work any day at any time, and you don’t make it clear in the interview that you’ll need sundown Friday through sundown Saturday off every week, then that can be grounds for rescinding a job offer. But that’s my Scroogey opinion.

      • flip says:

        We probably are closer to agreement then; it would seem in this case and likely others, the difference will be in the details. I do think that yes if notified to be required to work on X day, then the applicant should be prepared to work on that day and it’s reasonable for an employer to pass on them if they’re not. If on the other hand, you’re not told of the hours or day of start until the interview, it’s also reasonable for the applicant to be annoyed at being required to work on days you can’t. I did this once: had a holiday planned out months ahead, and happened to interview for a job beforehand. I informed them of my plans at the interview, and they had the choice to schedule around it or hire someone else more suited to their hours. (They happily worked around it and appreciated the heads up) … Again, probably one of those cases where the details matter.

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