HR Insights with Ali: The Importance of Understanding Accommodation Requests
Posted on 4/26/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
The case of EEOC v. Star Transport shows the risk employers take when their managers are not properly trained on the proper process for handling accommodation requests. In Star, a trucking company which handled liquor deliveries on some of its routes was found to have violated the rights of Muslim employees who had been fired for failing to follow Star’s “forced dispatch” policy. The employees asked not to deliver loads which contained alcohol, which should not have been a problem as Star frequently swapped loads among its drivers. Instead, the employees were fired, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit. The eventual jury verdict awarded the drivers with $240,000.
What was interesting about this case was that the Star employees who were tasked with addressing accommodation requests had never been properly trained. Speaking about one of Star’s human resource managers, the court opinion said, “He received no training on anti-discrimination laws, was not aware of any exceptions to the “at will” employment policy, had never heard of Title VII, and had no understanding of the company’s obligation to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.” A lack of information on this issue had catastrophic results for this employer.
As a business owner, you need to know basic information about employee accommodation requests so that you do not inadvertently make decisions which can negatively impact your practice. There are resources available to assist you if you do not know how to handle a particular matter. From HR professionals to employment attorneys, seeking assistance when faced with HR concerns is always a safer route than simply going with your gut. Protect yourself and your practice by ensuring that you and your management staff have an understanding of the basics of employment regulations, and make sure that you are seeking help when you need it.