Retirement Community Sued By EEOC For Religious Bias

August 28, 2017

Century Park Associates, LLC, dba Garden Plaza at Greenbriar Cove, which operates a senior and assisted living community in Ooltewah, Tennessee, violated federal law by demanding that two employees work on the Sabbath, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed last week.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Century Park required two employees to work on their Sabbath in violation of their religious beliefs. The two employees, members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The company told the employees they had to agree to work on Saturdays as part of a new work schedule. Although the employees offered to work on Sundays, Century required they agree to work on Saturdays. When the two employees refused due to their religious beliefs, the company asked them to resign, and the two employees resigned at Century Park's request. The two employees sought reinstatement to work and religious accommodations, but the owner denied their request.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from denying reasonable accommodation of an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Century Park Associates, LLC, d/b/a Garden Plaza at Greenbriar Cove, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00231) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Southern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting Century Park from denying religious accommodations in the future, as well as back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, which will go to the two discharged employees.

"Employers should not force employees to choose between their job and their religious beliefs," said Katharine Kores, director of the EEOC's Memphis District Office. "Making reasonable accommodations to employees' religious beliefs — except where it poses an undue hardship — is not just reasonable — it's required by federal law."

According to its website, Century Park operates over 40 retirement communities in 20 states. It provides seniors with a comfortable and active place to call home.