Mary Myers is a practicing Seventh-day Adventist. The tenets of her religion forbid her from engaging in any form of work on the Sabbath, which extends from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
In June 1988, Myers was hired as a full-time bus operator trainee by the New York City Transit Authority, which operates its buses on a seven-day-per-week, 24-hour-per-day basis. From the outset, Myers made it clear to her supervisors that her religious commitments would prevent her from working between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday. A problem arose because she was assigned Wednesdays and Thursdays as her days off, a schedule requiring her regularly to work on her Sabbath.
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the Port Authority and the Transport Workers Union, the privilege of selecting weekly days off was allocated in accordance with a strict seniority system. Myers spoke with several of her employer’s representatives in an effort to obtain some accommodation for her Sabbath observance. Her request for “split” days off was rebuffed on the ground that the practice was forbidden by the collective bargaining agreement.
Question: Must an employer make a good faith effort to try to accommodate an employee’s Sabbath when the accommodation would place the employer in violation of a collective bargaining agreement? Explain.
Dr. Cacace is an urologist and Marge DeSantis is his office manager. Ms. Rosario, born in New Jersey of Puerto Rican ancestry, was hired in late June 1997 as a secretary/medical assistant. She was discharged in early August of the same year.
One qualification for the job was fluency in Spanish because most of Dr. Cacace’s patients were Spanish speaking. Ms. Rosario is bilingual in Spanish and English. Another bilingual medical assistant, Bertha Aranzazu, was also employed in the office. Dr. Cacace speaks English and Spanish as well, as does his wife who also worked in the office and is of Hispanic origin. Ms. DeSantis was the only employee who was not proficient in both languages; she spoke and understood English only.
Ms. Rosario characterized Ms. DeSantis’s treatment of her as follows:
During my employment, at least once a week I was told on many occasions by Marge DeSantis not to speak Spanish on the job and on occasion not even speak Spanish to patients. One occasion, Marge DeSantis told me and another employee, “I am going to let one of you go because there is too much chitchat in Spanish I don’t understand.” It is a common custom among people of Spanish national origin to speak Spanish to each other. Bilinguals even combine English with Spanish. It just happens. I have always habitually done this and to this day I still do it and no employer I have ever worked for to this day has ever complained except Ms. DeSantis.
On or about August 5, 1997, DeSantis fired Rosario, telling her, “I’m sorry that I have to let you go like this because you are a nice girl and a quick learner, but I cannot have you speaking Spanish in my office.”
Question: Can an employee be discharged for speaking Spanish in the workplace? Explain.
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