North Memorial Facing Religious Accommodation Lawsuit
North Memorial Health Care is facing a legal battle against the federal government after being accused of withdrawing a job offer for an applicant who requested a schedule that accommodated her religious practices.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the Robbinsdale-based health system regarding a situation where Emily Sure-Ondara, a Seventh-Day Adventist, was offered employment as a registered nurse in November 2013. After Sure-Ondara expressed desire to not work from Friday evening to Saturday evening—her Sabbath—it is alleged that North Memorial revoked the job offer.
A release provided by the EEOC said Sure-Ondara yielded and accepted employment without the accommodation, but North Memorial voided her job offer regardless.
“We plan to show North Memorial’s decision to withdraw the job offer after Sure-Ondara’s request was retaliatory and unlawful,” said Jean Kamp, the associate attorney for EEOC, in a statement. “Applicants are not required to notify a potential employer about an accommodation issue before starting a job, though that’s what Ms. Sure-Ondara did.”
Following an investigation by the EEOC, the federal agency sought to reach a pre-litigation settlement over the dispute, but was unable to do so.
The EEOC will be suing on the grounds of Title VVI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which gives protection to employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.
“While Title VII allows employers to reject an accommodation request if certain circumstances are met,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for EEOC, in a statement, “it is unlawful for an employer to take action against the employee based on such a request.”
TCB reached out to North Memorial for comment, but has yet to receive a response.