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EEOC Launches Religious Discrimination Claim Against Convergys

EEOC Launches Religious Discrimination Claim Against Convergys

Earier this month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against Convergys Corporation, charging that the relationship management company violated federal law by refusing to hire a call center employee who could not work on Saturdays due to his religion.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that Convergys refused to hire Shannon Fantroy when he told them he could not work on Saturdays because of his Hebrew Israelite religion.  According to the pleadings, Fantroy had answered an online advertisement for a customer service position at Convergys’s call center in Hazelwood, Mo. The EEOC claims that Fantroy’s religious beliefs require him to observe the Sabbath from sunup until sundown on Saturday.  The suit also alleges that when a recruiter for Convergys interviewed Fantroy and told him that he would have to work weekends, Fantroy told her that he was unable to work on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs and the interview concluded immediately thereafter.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis (EEOC v. Convergys Corporation, 4:11-CV-00395) and reports that it first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s claim seeksfront pay, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Fantroy and injunctive relief, including training for all Convergys recruiters on religious accommodations.

“Giving an employee an alternative schedule in such a large call center should not be impossible,” said Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “Refusing to hire a person in this situation without even discussing a possible accommodation for his religion is unlawful discrimination.”

The EEOC’s enforcement suit and resulting press release here was no accident.  No doubt, the EEOC has focused upon this particular claim with the goal of making a broader statement for employers:  that employers need to reasonably accommodate applicant and employee religious needs.