U.S.F., a shipping company, received complaints that the employee, Elizabeth Anderson, was using the “blessed day” salutation from its liaison with Microsoft, its largest customer, according to BNA’s Daily Labor report. The liaison termed the practice “unacceptable.”
Last year Anderson sued in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, claiming that U.S.F. violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by failing to reasonably accommodate her religious practice. She moved for a preliminary injunction to allow her to use the phrase in written communications with U.S.F.’s customers.
The court denied the motion, concluding that U.S.F. reasonably accommodated Anderson’s religious practice, and, as a result, she had a “less than promising prospect of success on the merits.” Anderson filed an interlocutory appeal.
Anderson did not use the phrase all the time, nor had she made a religious commitment to do so, the court noted. Use of the phrase is not a requirement of her religion, it added.
Although U.S.F. told Anderson to stop using the salutation with Microsoft, she continued to do so. U.S.F. reprimanded Anderson and warned her that if she continued to use the phrase, she could be fired.
Meanwhile, the company issued a policy statement that all employees should refrain from using “additional religious, personal or political statements” in their closing remarks in communications with customers or with fellow employees. However, U.S.F. continued to allow Anderson to use the “blessed day” phrase with co-workers.
Still, Anderson “went public with the dispute,” according to the court. A local Indianapolis newspaper published an article that quoted a Microsoft representative as saying that the company did not object to the phrase. So, the next day, Anderson used it again in business correspondence with Microsoft.
Anderson discontinued her use of the phrase for four months but then she sent an e-mail to Microsoft with the phrase in capital letters surrounded by quotation marks. U.S.F. reprimanded her again.
« Appeals Court Reinstates Age Discrimination Case