Lawsuit Pits Jewish Nursing Home Against Seventh-Day Adventist

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against a Jewish nursing home in Boca Raton for allegedly attempting to force a Seventh-day Adventist to work on the Sabbath.

The EEOC says it has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Menorah House, accusing the nursing home of forcing a nursing assistant to work on Saturdays, which they say is a violation of federal law.

Certified nursing assistant Philomene Augustin is the subject of the lawsuit, and she claims she was fired over her religious beliefs.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, she's forbidden to work on her Sabbath -- which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday -- but Menorah House didn't mind that too much, according to the EEOC.

Augustin has worked at Menorah House for more than ten years before the EEOC claims "management instituted a new policy requiring all employees to work on Saturdays, regardless of their religious beliefs."

The EEOC cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans religious discrimination in the workplace and requires employees to reasonably accommodate legitimate religious beliefs in most cases.

According to Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC, this lawsuit falls under "most cases."

"This law seeks to strike a balance between reasonably accommodating religious beliefs and respecting legitimate business concerns," he says. "Unfortunately, in this case the employer refused its legal obligation to pursue a solution that's fair for all concerned."

The EEOC says it tried to do some mediation between the two parties to no avail and now asks for a permanent injunction against any religiously discriminatory employment practices.

Of course, it's also seeking some cash for Augustin.

The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and "any other relief" the court sees fit.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley