Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today’s Catch - Who’s the Boss?

In Colville, Washington, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a federal lawsuit against retail giant Walmart on behalf of an employee, a devout Mormon, has worked for the company since 1995. Until 2009, Walmart was able to accommodate his request for leave on Sundays to observe the Sabbath, but the company changed its scheduling system, and can no longer accommodate the employee.

Federal law requires employers to, “…provide reasonable accommodations to the sincere religious beliefs of employees, as long as the accommodations do not pose an undue hardship.”

The lawsuit brought by the EEOC raises important questions:
Will a fishing vessel be required to excuse a devout Mormon crewman from work on Sundays? What if the crew also contains a devout Jew who can’t work on Saturday? Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sunday or commit a mortal sin. Will the federal government require fishing vessels to keep a priest aboard?

In his column this month, Safety at Sea editor Alan Dujenski notes an often-overlooked fact that OSHA has jurisdiction over commercial fishing vessels. Imagine the additional layers of complexity if the federal government starts enforcing religious law as well.

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