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Redmond v. GAF Corp.

decided: April 10, 1978.

RODGES REDMOND, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GAF CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 74 C 1871 - William J. Lynch, Judge.

Castle, Senior Circuit Judge, Wood, Circuit Judge, and Eschbach, Chief District Judge.*fn*

Author: Wood

WOOD, Circuit Judge.

GAF Corporation appeals from the judgment entered below that its discharge of employee, Rodges Redmond, constituted religious discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a) and 42 U.S.C. 2000e(j)).

The case was tried before the court without a jury in April of 1976 on Redmond's second amended complaint*fn1 which alleged the following violations of Title VII by GAF: (a) failure to promote plaintiff because of his race; (b) compensation of plaintiff at a lower rate than other employees because of his race; (c) harassment of plaintiff in retaliation for filing discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (hereinafter EEOC); and (d) termination of plaintiff either in retaliation for bringing EEOC charges or because of his inability to work overtime on Saturdays, even though his religious practices prevented him from doing so.

At the close of plaintiff's case, the court found that plaintiff had made out a prima facie case of religious discrimination, but dismissed the other charges.*fn2 After trial on this issue, the court found that the defendant had failed to show any effort to reasonably "accommodate" plaintiff's religious practices or that an accommodation effort would have caused the defendant any "inconvenience." It concluded that GAF had violated Title VII in that "said discharge discriminated against the plaintiff in the exercise of his religion and his religious practices and activities." We agree.

The facts of the case are briefly as follows: Redmond had been employed by GAF since 1952 and had been a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion since 1958. Redmond was appointed to be in charge of a Bible study class by the Elders of the church in 1959.*fn3 This class met on Tuesday evenings until January, 1974 when it was changed by the Body of Elders to Saturday morning.*fn4 This change resulted, for the first time in all of the many years of Redmond's employment with GAF, in a conflict between the required overtime infrequently scheduled on Saturdays*fn5 and Redmond's religious practices. While the record is unclear as to exactly when GAF was informed of this conflict, it is clear that Redmond did not work Saturday overtime after January 1974. The record, however, does suggest both that overtime had been scheduled by GAF during this period for which Redmond had been excused, and that GAF was aware of the reason for his inability to work on Saturday.*fn6

Just after an incident in July of 1974, when he was suspended for one day for failure to return for annual inventory which was held in the middle of his vacation,*fn7 Redmond was scheduled to work overtime on Saturday. After his protest to his immediate supervisor, Hampton, proved unsuccessful, he requested a meeting for the next day with Hampton, and Svatos, the warehouse manager. Redmond testified that even though his employers were aware that he could not work on Saturday because of his "religious obligation," he was told that either he agreed to work or he would lose his job. When he told them he would not be able to work the scheduled overtime on the coming Saturday, he was terminated.

I.

Title VII prohibits discrimination based on "religion," 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(a)(1), but until the 1972 amendment of the act did not define the term or otherwise indicate the boundaries of the beliefs being protected. The 1972 amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j), added the following definition: "The term 'religion' includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief . . . ." While the words of the statute make it clear that Congress was attempting to protect both subjective belief and practices followed in carrying out such belief, the enactment does nothing to aid courts in determining the breadth of the "beliefs" and "practices" to be protected, other than to say that they must be "religious."

Most of the reported cases discussing "religious discrimination" under Title VII involve situations where either Sabbatarianism or a practice specifically mandated or prohibited by a tenet of the plaintiff's religion is involved.*fn8 However, despite support which can be cited for both positions,*fn9 we do not feel the protection of Title VII is limited to these categories.

First, we note that the very words of the statute ("all aspects of religious observance and practice . . . .") leave little room for such a limited interpretation. Secondly, we note that to restrict the act to those practices which are mandated or prohibited by a tenet of the religion, would involve the court in determining not only what are the tenets of a particular religion, which by itself perhaps would not be beyond the province of the court, but would frequently require the courts to decide whether a particular practice is or is not required by the tenets of the religion.*fn10 We find such a judicial determination to be irreconcilable with the warning issued by the Supreme Court in Fowler v. Rhode Island, 345 U.S. 67, 70, 97 L. Ed. 828, 73 S. Ct. 526 (1953), "It is no business of courts to say . . . . what is a religious practice or activity . . . ."

The Supreme Court has never had the occasion to interpret this phrase of the 1972 amendment, but the two circuits which have considered it, the Fifth and Sixth Circuits,*fn11 both have concluded that it is not to be given a narrow or limited interpretation. We conclude that conduct which is "religiously motivated," i.e., "all forms and aspects of religion, however eccentric . . . ." is protected. Cooper v. General Dynamics, 533 F.2d 163, 168 (5th Cir. 1976).*fn12

We are thus unable to agree with the suggestion made by GAF on appeal, that because Saturday work per se is not prohibited by plaintiff's religion, that the practices in question are outside the protection of Title VII. There is no dispute that Redmond was sincere in his religious belief, having been an active participating member of the church for over 16 years. The evidence establishes that he was appointed to be a lifetime leader of the Bible study class, and had done so for many years prior to this case. The evidence showed that the time of the meeting was arranged by the elders, and that following the meeting the group, of which Redmond was the leader, did field missionary work. Redmond testified that he felt his participation in the Saturday activities was at the dictate of ...


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