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Horrible Decision from Federal Court in Michigan Permitting Supermarket Chain to Discriminate on Basis of Religion

Credit to the Adjunct Law Prof Blog for the posting, below.  I must add my own comment of what a wretched little decision this is out of the Eastern District of Michigan.  The opinion concludes that the supermarket chain would suffer “undue hardship.”  However, it seems that the application of such a principle placed no real burden upon the chain, other than conjuring up some bases which — from any reasonable perspective — would have imposed virtually no hardship upon the supermarket chain at all.  I do feel that this granting of summary judgment to this big business entity was incorrect, and believe that it would stand a good chance for reversal at the federal lower appellate level.

Employer lawfully fired Seventh Day Adventist who didn’t work Saturdays; accommodation would cause undue hardship

Although a Seventh Day Adventist who requested Saturdays off to observe the Sabbath stated a prima facie case of religious discrimination, a district court held that  the employer was entitled to summary judgment because it demonstrated that it could not reasonably accommodate the employee without undue hardship. Prach v Hollywood Supermarket, Inc,___F.Supp.2d___( E.D.Mich. August 27, 2010). To accommodate the employee, the employer would be forced to hire an additional worker, understaff the produce department, or require other employees to work Saturdays without regard to their preferences and in possible violation of a collective bargaining agreement with the employees’ union, resulting in more than a de minimus cost or discrimination against other employees on the basis of the employee’s religion.

2 Comments on This Post
  1. Mary Neish

    This case sparks a interest. I know nothing about this case other then the information found in your blog. I am wondering if the summery judgment was on pleadings or evidence? One would think that because of Freedom of Religion that their would have been a substantial onus of the supermarket chain to prove undue hard ship. If I was the supermarkets legal council, I would even recommend they place a employment ad to cover the Sunday shift.

  2. Mary, I had to refresh my recollection from this three-year old case. Sadly, it appears to be the continuation of a disturbing trend in U.S. courts, ones that appear to place politics above principles. In this case, Free Exercise would normally trump — aside from the fact that this is a private corporation, not a governmental entity. However, many states — and the U.S. federal government — have passed laws — Religious Freedoms Restoration acts — that pick up the slack from the inapplicability of the U.S. Constitution (akin to the Canadian Charter of Rights) to private entities. Undue hardship on a prominent supermarket chain to accommodate a genuine expression of religious belief? I think not.



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