In Arizona, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons as they are most commonly known, make up the second biggest congregations in the state, topped only behind Roman Catholics. It is well-known that in Arizona, Mormons hold high level elected offices and own and run some of the most prominent businesses.
It is in that employment climate that some allegations of workplace discrimination have been raised. The problem also exists in workplaces that are owned or dominated by those practicing other evangelical faiths that promote proselytizing by members.
In 2006, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s attorney in Phoenix sued the University of Phoenix, saying that managers of the Mormon faith gave preferential treatment to other Mormons working for and under their supervision. Another target of an EEOC lawsuit in 2003 was Desert Schools Federal Credit Union for those same reasons.
Those two lawsuits were settled, respectively, for $1.9 million and $65,000. According to the EEOC attorney, more businesses are under agency investigation after workers complained of their allegedly discriminatory practices
The EEOC has also represented Mormon plaintiffs who reported being subjected to religious discrimination when employers forced them to work on Sundays when their worship services were held.
These litigation cases can only be brought against companies with more than 15 employees, leaving the door open for small business owners with deep religious beliefs to act in accordance with those beliefs.
From 2009 to 2013, 648 claims of religious discrimination were filed in the state. These lawsuits can take a big bite out of company profits, with the total cost of settlement, attorney fees and damages being in the high six figures or more.
The EEOC also is seeing more litigation arise out of complaints filed by those of Eastern religion or Muslim faiths whose strict behavioral, grooming and dress codes have caused them difficulties on the job.
Claims of this type can be alleviated by skillful management by experienced Arizona business law attorneys for better outcomes.
Source: Phoenix Business Journal, “Preaching from the boss: Employer’s faith can prompt religious discrimination lawsuits” Mike Sunnucks, Nov. 20, 2014
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