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Home » Archives » News Archives » 2007 » Religious Discrimination Litigation Report

Religious Discrimination Litigation Report

The Pacific Union Conference Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty and the North American Religious Liberty Association – West

Religious Liberty Newsflash!

September 26, 2007

Religious Discrimination Litigation Report

1. Todd Sturgill v. UPS case to be heard on appeal TODAY!!!
2. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Seventh-day Adventist
3. North American Division Litigation Committee Votes to File Lawsuit Against Utah American Energy, Inc. on behalf of Adventist miner.
4. California Department of Fair Employment & Housing Settles Case on Behalf of Undocumented Seventh-day Adventist

1. The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will hear arguments today in a case of religious discrimination by UPS against Todd Sturgill, a former driver who won a jury verdict of $311,166.75 last June after trial in Federal District Court in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Sturgill had been a driver for UPS for nineteen years when he joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and faced the company’s refusal to provide a religious accommodation. He was fired in December of 2004. The jury’s award included punitive damages, which is believed to be the first time such damages have been awarded in a Sabbath discrimination case. Readers are urged to take a moment to pray for Mr. Sturgill and his family, and the attorneys who will be arguing his case on appeal today, as well as for the judges who will be deciding the case. More information about the case can be found at http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/05/1151705755/index.html.en.

2. Last Monday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Sierra Pacific Industries, one of the largest forest product companies in the United States, on behalf of Luciano Cortez, a Seventh-day Adventist. Mr. Cortez was fired more than two years ago when the employer refused to accommodate him so that he could avoid Friday night shifts. Mr. Cortez had found two of his fellow workers who were willing to work that shift in his place, but the employer chose to fire him instead. The Pacific Union Conference Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty has been representing Mr. Cortez in proceedings before the EEOC, and encouraged the agency to file this lawsuit. “We are very grateful to the EEOC for representing Mr. Cortez, and appreciate their hard work and commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans,” said Alan J. Reinach, the director of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty, on learning that the decision had been made to file the suit.

3. While all Americans were praying for the safe recovery of the six miners trapped in a Utah mine this summer, the North American Division Litigation Committee was busy evaluating the case of one of the few African American miners, an Adventist, who had suffered blatant discrimination from the same mining company in the evening news, night after night, Utah American Energy, Inc. Willie Ellington had been granted a religious accommodation for his Sabbath observance for some time, but it was revoked when new management took over the mine. He was demoted from his role as a safety officer and put to work in a very physically demanding position, despite a severe shoulder injury. After several months of discriminatory treatment, knowing that he could be terminated at any time, but not knowing when, Mr. Ellington left to take a job at another mine, where he would be able to resume his duties as a safety officer, albeit for less pay. After meeting with Ellington, and doing some legal research, Todd McFarland, associate general counsel at the Office of Legal Council of the Adventist Church’s world headquarters, determined that there were important legal issues at stake in this case. This influenced the Litigation Committee’s decision to accept the case, and provide funding. A lawsuit is expected to be filed in early October.

4. Earlier this summer, the California civil rights agency, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, settled a lawsuit it had filed on behalf of an undocumented Seventh-day Adventist who had been employed in a Central Valley tire shop. Several years ago, the California legislature passed a bill to address the widespread oppression of undocumented workers. Recognizing that it lacked the authority to directly address the immigration problem, and that despite Federal prohibitions against hiring undocumented workers, many employers did utilize these workers, the legislature voted to extend California labor law protections to this class of employees. As a result, an employer who hires an undocumented worker can no longer violate wage and hour laws, or discriminate with impunity. In this case, a tire shop owner hired only undocumented workers, and paid everyone off the books. The Adventist was fired due to his need for Sabbath accommodation. The employer was unable to demonstrate that it could not accommodate because it kept no written records of its employees, and had no written schedules showing who worked what shifts.

Please join us in praying for all of these cases, and for many others not mentioned here. Please also encourage those who continue to work on Sabbath, and struggle with religious conviction, that there is help available from the Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty. Your continued support through prayer, and annual offerings, is greatly appreciated. The church’s litigation fund depends on a portion of the annual religious liberty offering to be able to file these cases on behalf of church members.

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These religious liberty newsflashes and legislative e.lerts are published by the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty in conjunction with the North American Religious Liberty Association – West.

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