Michigan retailer agrees to accommodate Sunday observers

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) Meijer Inc., the Michigan-based discount retail chain, has agreed to accommodate employees' religious practices after settling a lawsuit by a Christian Reformed Church member who was fired for refusing to work Sundays.

In a settlement filed in federal court, Meijer agreed to train supervisors to avoid religious discrimination and allow shift swaps, The Grand Rapids Press reported. Personnel managers will settle conflicts, not an employee's immediate boss.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Meijer on behalf of Debra Kerkstra of Allegan, a cake decorator fired in 2001 after refusing a Sunday shift at a store in Plainwell.

Kerkstra said she lined up a replacement but the store would not allow the switch.

''I was forced to choose between my job and my religion,'' said Kerkstra. ''I chose my religion and lost my job.''

Kerkstra will receive $22,000 if a judge signs the settlement.

Meijer, which operates more than 155 stores in five states, also recently settled out of court a suburban Detroit complaint from a meat cutter fired for failing to work Sundays.

A 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision requires companies to try to accommodate employees' religious practices, but does not guarantee days off if finding a substitute worker or paying overtime creates hardship for an employer.

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