Schedule Change on Sundays not Accommodation for Observing Sabbath

April 25, 2006 ( - The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that offering a shift change on Sundays was not an accommodation for an employee's religious belief of observing the Sabbath.

In its opinion, the appellate court said that the US District Court for the Western District of New York erred in granting summary judgment to Home Depot in a suit brought by Bradley Baker, who said his religious beliefs prevented him from working on Sundays.

According to the appellate court, the shift change offered to Baker was not an accommodation at all because it only permitted him to attend church services, but did not address his “religious requirement to abstain totally from work on Sundays.”

Baker worked first for Home Depot in Massachusetts.   While attending church services and premarital counseling with his fiancée in New York, he said he became aware of the importance of the Sabbath and the requirement that all work cease on that day.

When he moved to New York and was offered a similar job at a Home Depot there, he made his supervisors aware of his belief of not working on Sundays.   Through several supervisor and scheduler changes, this was no problem.   Then, a new store manager, Colleen Vorndran, began scheduling him on Sundays.

He called in the first Sunday he was scheduled to work and said he would not report for religious reasons.   Vorndran had said Baker needed to be more flexible and work on Sundays.   She offered him a later shift that would allow him to attend services, but he refused.   She also offered him part-time employment, but he said he needed to work full-time to obtain benefits.

After he again called in to not report to work on the following Sunday, he was fired for unexcused absences.

The district court granted summary judgment to Home Depot saying the offer of a different shift was a reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs.   However, the appellate court disagreed and remanded the case back to the lower court for further consideration.

The opinion in Baker v. The Home Depot is here .