$21.5 Million Verdict Because Employer Failed to Accommodate Employee Religious Belief

January 22, 2019

Title VII requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs unless unduly burdensome. A long-term employee at a hotel in Florida informed the hotel at her hiring that she could not work on Sundays because she was a missionary for the Soldiers of Christ Church. After such, the employee was permitted for almost 10 years to take Sundays off. However, employee was told by a new manager that she was required to work on Sundays. The employee gave the manager a letter from her pastor explaining her sincerely held religious beliefs. The employee even switched shifts with co-workers for a while until she was allegedly “terminated for alleged misconduct, negligence, and ‘unexcused absences." The jury awarded he employee a total of $21.5 million: $36,000 for lost wages and benefits, $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish, and $21 million for punitive damages.