A U.S. District Court judge on Sept. 23 ruled in favor of the Charles E. Smith Life Communities in a religious discrimination suit filed by a former employee.
Judge Paul W. Grimm ruled that as a religious organization, the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, a part of Charles E. Smith Life Communities, and is exempt from rules preventing religious discrimination in the work place under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Veronica Shand, who is a Seventh Day Adventist, a Christian sect that observes the Sabbath on Saturdays, had asked her employer for Saturdays off as a religious accommodation, and was denied. In response, she quit her position as a geriatric nurse and filed suit at the end of 2018.
In a motion filed in March, Shand argued that her employer had not explained to her the agency’s religious accommodation policy.
“I went through all the proper channels, and I was denied for religious accommodation,” she wrote in the motion. ”During my time with CESLC, I complied with all the rules and regulations; serving kosher meals, Jewish dietary, break, grooming and employee health, etc…. Hebrew Home’s mission is to follow their Jewish laws/custom and as do Seventh-day Adventists; we keep the Sabbath holy. Therefore, we should be granted our desire to keep the Sabbath holy and allowed accommodation on any job for religious purposes.”
Hebrew Home attorney Jeffrey Jules Pargement argued that the agency is a religious institution due to a 2004 ruling and was thus exempt from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act protects employees from being discriminated against due to “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” It is not applicable to religious organizations.
Although the Hebrew Home is not a place of worship, he argued, it has “substantial religious character,” because it has obvious religious characteristics in its operations, including twice- daily services, an all-kosher meal facility and mezuzot installed in the facility.
Grimm sided with the Hebrew Home. He wrote in his opinion, “I find that Hebrew Home’s mission is marked by clear or obvious religious characteristics, such that it is a religious organization for purposes of the religious organization exemption to Title VII.”
Shand represented herself in the case.
David Nevins, a spokesperson for the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, said the agency is “very pleased with the decision.”