Reed v. Great Lakes Cos.
330 F.3d 931 (7th Cir. 2003)
Reed was the executive housekeeper at a Holiday Inn. Part of his job involved placing a Bible in every room. One day, during delivery of the Bibles, there was some praying and Bible reading initiated by the group that delivered the free Bibles. Reed, offended, left in the middle. That upset his manager, who told Reed not to do that again. Reed responded that he couldn’t be compelled to a religious event, and the manager told him that he would do what he was told. Reed said “Oh hell no you won’t, not when it comes to my spirituality,” and was fired for insubordination.
- This prompted a claim under Title VII for religious discrimination.
- Note, however, that during his deposition, Reed refused to indicate if he had any religious affiliation.
The trial court granted summary judgment for the employer.
(1) Was the employee fired because of his religious beliefs?
(2) Did the employer refuse to accommodate its employee’s religious beliefs?
(1) Title VII does forbid an employer (unless it is a religious organization) to discriminate against an employee on the basis of the employee’s religion.
- Here, however, Reed couldn’t have been fired because of his religion because the employer had no reason to know of it in the first place – Reed never mentioned it or made it known (and still hasn’t).
(2) Besides forbidding intentional discrimination, Title VII requires an employer to try to accommodate the religious needs of its employees, that is, to try to adjust the requirements of the job so that the employee can remain employed without giving up the practice of his religion, provided the adjustment would not work an undue hardship on the employer.
- Title VII imposes a duty on the employer but also a reciprocal duty on the employee to give fair warning of the employment practices that will interfere with his religion and that he therefore wants waived or adjusted.
- Here, however, there was no notice – “A person’s religion is not like his sex or race-something obvious at a glance.”