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U.S. Department of Justice files lawsuit against the city of Lansing alleging religious discrimination

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Posted at 12:18 PM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 12:18:41-04

LANSING, Mich. — The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Friday against the city of Lansing alleging that the city discriminated against a former detention officer on the basis of her religion.

The lawsuit claims that, when the city terminated Sylvia Coleman, the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion.

Coleman, who is a Seventh-day Adventist, informed the city of Lansing that she could not work a shift from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday because of her religious observance of the Sabbath during the hiring process.

According to the lawsuit, Coleman was hired and began work on June 18, 2018. She reviewed her schedule and saw that she was scheduled to work on Saturday, June 23, 2018 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Coleman informed her detention officer trainer, HR and her supervisor that she could not work that shift, but she was told that she was required to work that shift.

On June 20, 2018, Coleman was fired because she could not work on Saturdays, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the city failed to accommodate for Coleman's sincerely held religious beliefs.

After being fired, Coleman filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on July 5, 2018. The EEOC investigated the case and found "reasonable cause" that Coleman was discriminated against based on her religion.

The EEOC referred the charge to the Justice Department.

“Religious discrimination and intolerance have no place in the workplace today,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a news release. “Employees should not have to choose between their religion and their livelihood, particularly when the employer can accommodate their religious beliefs. The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the religious rights and religious freedom of employees by ensuring that no one faces unlawful discrimination in the workplace.”

The lawsuit asks that the city of Lansing "develop and implement policies that would prevent religious discrimination, seeks monetary damages for Coleman and seeks other appropriate relief," according to a news release from the DOJ.

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