City Sued by DOJ for Discriminating Against Adventist Church Member

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the City of Lansing, Michigan, for allegedly firing an Adventist Church member after she refused to work on Saturdays, claiming the city discriminated on the basis of religion in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11894

It appears like the SDA applicant did notify the interviewer about the inability to work on Saturdays. My question would be, did the person make sure that they needed to be excluded from the work on Saturday? Was there an explicit understanding before accepting the position? If yes, then employer would seem to be in the wrong. If no, then I am uncomfortable calling this discrimination. Did someone make unwarranted assumptions? Would like to know the full story.

Yes, there are more details I didn’t include in the interest of brevity. The details of the case are interesting, and I’d encourage you to read the full complaint if you’re interested (it’s linked as a PDF to the DOJ’s press release).

The long and short of it, according to the government’s case, is that the employee marked on her application that she wouldn’t be available to work on Saturdays and made that clear to her interviewers during the hiring process. Knowing that information, the city still hired her, but then supervisors scheduled her to work on a Saturday right away. The city’s rebuttal is that the employee said she could work “flexible” hours; the employee claims that she meant flexible outside of Sabbath-hours.

The crux of the matter is how much employers are required to do to accommodate someone who won’t work on Sabbath, and previous court opinions leave significant gray area. The DOJ says that “Lansing management did not discuss any potential accommodations with Coleman, including whether there were other open positions within Lansing for which she was qualified.”

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Reading the supporting documents it certainly sounds like the city screwed up!!

When I first started working for Delta Global Services at Dulles International Airport, I made clear with my interviewer that I couldn’t work on Saturday because I was a Seventh Day Adventist. The Lord blessed me for a long time and helped me keep the Sabbath off, despite the fact that they almost never gave those of less seniority any Saturday or Sunday off unless someone of more seniority didn’t take a shift with that day off. But as time went by people with more seniority started to leave and my seniority increased and had an easier time keeping the Sabbath off.

But then I left the church and joined a Non-denominational Church which gave me a closer relationship to Christ than I ever felt in the SDA Church. And soon I decided to work on a Saturday, and found it didn’t hurt me one bit and I was just as blessed by God as when I kept Saturday off.

But then I returned to the SDA Church, when I moved from Virginia to Florida to work at Orlando International Airport, and found an SDA Church that didn’t look down on you if you worked on the Sabbath. Now I appriciate the Sabbath more than when I was keeping it because of God’s Law rather than God’s Love.

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Since we don’t live in a theocracy, I would hope there could be some flexibility with this. For instance, I’m glad that if I call 911 on a Saturday, someone answers the phone. If my house is on fire, somebody comes with a hose and ladder truck. If I’m in the hospital, somebody refills my IV, or removes my exploding appendix. If I am in jail, I hope some one will be there (a Detention Officer) to bring me a meal or admit a loved one to visit me or prison ministry chaplain. Not saying that this particular person doesn’t have a case, but there has been some hypocrisy within the church on these matters. We won’t do the job, but are glad there are gentiles doing it to benefit us.

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Cases like this make Sabbath “keeping” all about “Moi” rather than the Lord of the Sabbath.

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