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U.S. EEOC v. IBP

May 7, 1993

U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
IBP, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McDADE, District Judge.

ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On May 8, 1992, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, [EEOC], filed this action on behalf of Plaintiff,*fn1 Richard Boyer, pursuant to Section 706(f)(1) and (3) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., Title VII. The EEOC alleges that Defendant, IBP, Inc., discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of his religious beliefs and practices as a Seventh Day Adventist, in violation of Sections 701(j) and 703(a) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j) and § 2000e-2(a)(1), by discharging him after he refused on religious grounds to work on Saturdays, as scheduled, and to find a replacement for his shift. Jurisdiction and venue are proper. 28 U.S.C. § 451, 1331, 1337, 1343 and 1345.

Before the Court is IBP's Motion for Summary Judgment, alleging: (1) that Plaintiff cannot make out a prima facie case of religious discrimination under Title VII because Plaintiff's beliefs were not sincere, and (2) that even if Plaintiff has established a prima facie case, IBP fulfilled its statutory duty to accommodate Plaintiff's religious beliefs and practices by offering to allow Plaintiff to trade shifts with another employee. After careful review, the Court finds that the Motion For Summary Judgment must be DENIED because genuine issues of material fact exist with respect to both theories.

Federal Rule 56(c) Summary Judgment is appropriate when there remains no genuine issue of material fact upon which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Although the moving party on a motion for summary judgment is responsible for demonstrating to the Court why there is no genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must go beyond the face of the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, to show that a rational jury could return a verdict in this party's favor. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-27, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552-55, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254-55, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513-14, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). The Court must view all inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the opposing party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48, 106 S.Ct. at 2510. Beraha v. Baxter Health Corp., 956 F.2d 1436, 1440 (7th Cir. 1992). Disputed facts are material when they might affect the outcome of the suit. First Ind. Bank v. Baker, 957 F.2d 506, 507-08 (7th Cir. 1992). A metaphysical doubt will not suffice. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. at 1356.

II. THE FACTS

On January 13, 1986, IBP hired Plaintiff, Richard Boyer, as a "clod trimmer" for its Joslin, Illinois, beef processing plant. Several months later, IBP promoted Plaintiff to the position of "Chuck Boner"*fn2 on the "A" Shift, which worked from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The "B" Shift worked from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.*fn3 Plaintiff worked on scheduled Saturdays for IBP from the date of his hire until Plaintiff became a Seventh Day Adventist in December 1988.*fn4 After his conversion in December 1988, Plaintiff notified the Personnel Manager, Tom Udell, that he could no longer work on Saturdays for religious reasons. A tenet of the Seventh Day Adventist religion is that members may not work on the Sabbath, observed from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Plaintiffs Pastor also sent a letter to IBP confirming that Plaintiff's religious belief was a practice of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Plaintiffs observance of the Sabbath did not conflict with his work schedule prior to April 8, 1989, because IBP's corporate office had not scheduled Saturday work from December 1988 to April 8, 1989. However, when IBP's corporate office notified the Joslin Plant to schedule Saturday work for April 8, 1989, Tom Udell and Plaintiff's Supervisor, Dennis Tague, apparently foreseeing a conflict, met with Plaintiff to discuss ways to accommodate Plaintiff's religious belief. IBP offered to accommodate Plaintiff by allowing him to trade shifts with a co-worker On the "B" shift.*fn5 Tague also offered to accompany Plaintiff to the production floor while Plaintiff sought a replacement. Plaintiff then informed Udell and Tague that he considered it a sin to ask someone to work for him on the Sabbath, although Plaintiff conceded that he would allow IBP to arrange a shift swap for him.

Plaintiff failed to report for work on Saturday, April 8, 1989, and received an unexcused absence because a replacement was not found. Plaintiff also received a written warning that unexcused absences would, result in discipline. After his second unexcused absence, Plaintiff was suspended for one day. Plaintiff was discharged after his third unexcused absence,*fn6 pursuant to company policy.*fn7 Immediately after his discharge, Plaintiff was awarded unemployment compensation.*fn8 Plaintiff then held a series of jobs, including one for which he was terminated after his refusal to work on Saturdays. Sometime in July or August of 1990, however, Plaintiff began attending classes at a truck driving school on Friday evenings; and in 1991, Plaintiff agreed to drive a truck for his employer on a Saturday.*fn9 When asked why he broke the Sabbath, Plaintiff replied that he had "lost faith" in 1990.

II. DISCUSSION

IBP contends that summary judgment must be granted in its favor because the Plaintiff cannot demonstrate the requisite sincerity of his religious beliefs, as a matter of law. Alternatively, IBP contends that even if Plaintiff has established a prima facie case of religious discrimination, IBP has fulfilled its statutory obligation of reasonable accommodation, as a matter of law.

A. The Prima Facie Case

Analysis of a religious discrimination case begins with the question of whether the employee has established a prima facie case of religious discrimination. A prima facie case is established when an employee shows that he or she: (1) holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement; (2) has informed the employer about the conflict; and (3) was discharged or disciplined for failing to comply with the conflicting employment requirement. Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 65-66, 107 S.Ct. 367, 372, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986); Turpen v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas R.R. Co:, 736 F.2d 1022, 1026 (5th Cir. 1984).

IBP's challenge to the sincerity of Plaintiff's belief can be disposed of quickly. The Supreme Court defines a religious belief's "not merely a matter of personal preference, but one of deep religious conviction, shared by an organized group, and intimately related to daily living." Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 215-216, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 1533, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972). IBP claims that although society recognizes the Seventh Day Adventist Church as an organized religious group, Plaintiff cannot prove that his belief in ...


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