Human Resources News & Insights

Accommodation doesn’t mean ‘satisfaction of an employee’s every desire’

We often read court decisions where employers get hammered for failing to properly handle an employee request for an accommodation of some type. Nice to see one case where common sense carries the day.

A recent case out of Chicago concerned one Latice Porter, a data entry specialist in the Field Services Section of the city police department.

Porter was a committed Christian, and after she returned to her job after a nine-month medical leave, she was unhappy to learn that her days off would be Friday and Saturday. That meant she couldn’t attend church on Sunday.

She asked to be reassigned to the work group that took Sunday and Monday off. Because the department was trying to “balance the workforce” — there were more employees in the Sunday/Monday group than in the Friday/Saturday group — she was told she’d be reassigned when an opening came up in the Sunday/Monday group.

Didn’t want to change shifts

Her supervisors also suggested that she work the 3  to 11 p.m. shift, which would allow her to attend church services. But Porter never followed up on that suggestion.

Instead, in a four month period, she was absent from work on 16 Sundays. When she was called on the carpet for her pattern of taking Sundays off, she filed a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC.

The case eventually landed in federal appeals court, where the judge confirmed the lower court’s rulings: The city had made a reasonable attempt at accommodation when it offered to change her work shift.

“Had changing watch groups affected Porter’s pat or other benefits, a much more rigorous inquiry would be required,” the judge wrote. “That is not the case before us, however.

“Porter simply did not want to work the later watch, but that does not make the proposed accommodation unreasonable.”

The judge also made a comment that should warm the heart of every employer:

“[I]t is well settled that [federal bias law] … requires only reasonable accommodation, not satisfaction of an employee’s every desire.”

The case is Porter v. City of Chicago.

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