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Employee Preference Not Final Arbiter of Reasonableness

Employers have an obligation to provide “reasonable accommodation” for the religious practices of their employees under Title VII. An employee’s preference for one accommodation over another does not determine the reasonableness of the accommodation.
B&B Airparts, Inc. required occasional overtime shifts from its employees. As a Hebrew Israelite, employee Jerome Christmon observed the Sabbath on Saturdays and was not available for work on that day. He asked the company if he could work overtime on Sunday instead. B&B allowed him to skip the Saturday overtime shifts without any consequence but did not assign him to Sunday shifts. Mr. Christmon was unsatisfied with this solution because he wanted the overtime pay. He sued, claiming that the company violated Title VII.
Both the district court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of B&B, finding that Mr. Christmon had been provided with reasonable accommodation. The circuit court asserted that a “reasonable accommodation does not necessarily spare an employee from any resulting cost” and “may be reasonable even though it is not the one that the employee prefers.” Title VII’s protection simply requires that employees be allowed to follow the dictates of their religion despite “the employer’s normal rules to the contrary.” The accommodation offered by B&B met the criteria in that he was able to avoid the conflict with his religion.