Ozarks Electric Cooperative Sued By EEOC For Religious Discrimination

Power Supplier Fired Jehovah’s Witness for Wanting One Day Off to Attend Religious Convention, Federal Agency Charges

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corporation, an electric power supplier located in Fayetteville, Ark., violated federal law by firing an employee because of her religious practices, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit (Case No. 5:12-cv-05014-JLH, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division), Julia Solis, a call center customer service representative and a Jehovah’s Witnesses, requested one day off to attend a religious convention. The company denied the request and finally fired Solis for this, the agency said.

Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees against discriminationbased on religion and requires employers to provide employees with reasonableaccommodations to allow them to practice their sincerely held religiousbeliefs. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The EEOC has asked the court to grant a permanent injunction enjoining Ozarks Electric from engaging in any further employment practice that discriminates against employees because of their religious beliefs and requiring the company to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of employees. The EEOC has also asked the court to order the company to provide relief to Solis, compensatory and punitive damages and any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.

“This employee’s request was so modest and minor it is astounding the company not only refused it, but also fired her.” said Katharine W. Kores, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi. “Employees should never be forced to choose between their religion and their job.”

Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corporation is a not-for-profit corporation that supplies electric power to its members in Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma. According to its website, it serves more than 62,000 homes, farms, businesses and industries in parts of Benton, Crawford, Franklin, Madison and Washington counties in Arkansas, and Adair, Cherokee, Delaware and Sequoyah counties in Oklahoma.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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