Global Retail Giant Walmart Faces Religious Discrimination Lawsuit
The EEOC has announced a law suit against global retail giant Walmart for allegedly refusing a schedule change by a Wisconsin store associate to observe the Sabbath. Walmart Inc. and Walmart Stores East, LP violated federal law when they refused a Christian employee’s request not to work from sundown Fridays to sundown Saturdays so he could observe the Sabbath as his religion requires, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Edward Hedican, a Seventh-Day Adventist, asked for the scheduling accommodation when he accepted an assistant manager position at the Walmart Supercenter in Hayward, Wis. Walmart returned his request because its representative had sent it to Walmart’s Accommodation Service Center in Arkansas, which does not approve religious accommodations. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (EEOC v. Walmart Stores East, LP and Walmart Inc., Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00804) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit asks the court to order Walmart to pay damages, including punitive damages, to Hedican. The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting Walmart from discriminating against applicants, and employees, based on religion in the future.
“The EEOC has sued Walmart in the past for this very type of religious discrimination,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “An employer of Walmart’s size and resources should know that the law requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs, or at least make a sincere effort to accommodate them. The EEOC will go to court as many times as necessary to ensure Walmart understands its obligations under the law.”
Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, said, “Where an employer’s scheduling conflicts with an employee’s religious beliefs, the employer must try to find an accommodation that eliminates the conflict, if it can do so without undue hardship. But the EEOC found during its investigation that Walmart rescinded Mr. Hedican’s offer rather than even try to accommodate him. This is not the right way to handle such situations, as Walmart still needs to learn.”
The EEOC’s Chicago District is responsible for investigating charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.