Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on account of religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate its employees' religious practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship. So where job duties and religious practice conflict there is some give-and-take: both employer and employee are required to cooperate reasonably to work out an accommodation acceptable to both. Does this require the employee to give up part of his or her religious practice? "No" the Sixth Circuit answered this question recently in Crider v University of Tennessee, No 11-5511 (July 23, 2012).
Crider, a Seventh Day Adventist whose religious practice prohibits her from working from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, was hired by UT as a Programs Abroad Coordinator in its study abroad program. Part of her job duties included monitoring on a rotating basis with other coordinators an emergency cell phone that students studying abroad could call in case of emergency. Crider informed UT that she could not perform this duty from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday because it conflicted with her religious practice. UT suggested that she agree to monitor on weekends only some of the time, like "in an emergency situation or when the other two coordinators were out of town." Crider declined this suggestion and she was eventually terminated. She filed suit claiming religious discrimination; a district court granted summary judgment to UT but the Sixth Circuit reversed.
UT argued on appeal that it had attempted to reasonably accommodate Crider's religious practice by suggesting that she be responsible for monitoring the cell phone on weekends only in emergency situations or when the other coordinators were out of town; it was Crider who was being unreasonable UT argued because she would not compromise her religious practice even this little bit. The Sixth Circuit had none of this argument and rejected it pointedly:
Although the employee is obligated to cooperate with an employer's attempt at accommodation, cooperation is not synonymous with compromise, where such compromise would be in violation of the employees' religious needs. Offering Crider fewer Saturday shifts is not a reasonable accommodation to religious beliefs which prohibit working on Saturdays.