Elk Grove car dealership Maita Chevrolet has agreed to pay a former employee $158,000 and revise its personnel policy to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the suit in San Francisco federal court on behalf of Anthony Okon, who was a car salesman at the dealership from April 2005 until his discharge in May 2007.
According to an EEOC release Friday, Maita failed to accommodate the religious practice of Okon, a Nigerian immigrant and Seventh-day Adventist, and instead harassed, disciplined and ultimately fired him because he continued to obey the mandates of his religion.
The general manager of the dealership did not return a call seeking comment.
A key tenet of Okon’s faith is observance of the Sabbath by refraining from secular activity from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The suit charged that the managers at Maita persistently scheduled him to work shifts during that period, despite pleas from Okon and his pastor.
When Okon, 50, continued to take leave to observe the Sabbath, he was fired, the suit alleged.
The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to accommodate the sincere religious beliefs and practices of employees, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the business.
Under a court-approved consent decree, Maita will revise its personnel policy manual concerning religious accommodation; train its managers, supervisors and human resources personnel on their legal obligations, and report to the EEOC all requests for religious accommodation or complaints of religious discrimination at the dealership.
The release quotes EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo as saying, “Employers must recognize the value of diversity in their workforce, including religious diversity, and not harass or discriminate against those of different faiths or religious practices.”
Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916)321-1189.