Suarez v. State
of Washington (Washington Ct App 09/20/2022)
Sent to Custom
Alerts™ subscribers on 09/21/2022
Suarez sued her former employer,
Yakima Valley School (School), alleging the School failed to
accommodate her religious beliefs and practices in violation of
the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Suarez alleged the
School failed to adjust her work schedule to accommodate her
practice of observing a weekly Sabbath and other religious
holidays, and then terminated her for not reporting to work while
exercising her religious beliefs.
The School had denied
Suarez's request for paid time off to attend religious festivals,
citing its need to call in other employees for mandatory overtime.
The Washington Court of Appeals held there were genuine issues
of material fact as to whether the School provided a reasonable
accommodation, and whether accommodating Suarez's leave requests
would have caused undue hardship.
There was insufficient
evidence demonstrating that Suarez's requests for leave caused the
School significant difficulty or expense, or that the School took
steps to eliminate the conflict.
A state regulation
defines "undue hardship" for State employees. In considering
whether to grant unpaid leave for religious purposes, a State
employer should consider 10 factors:
(1) The number,
composition, and structure of staff employed by the employing
entity or in the requesting employee’s program.
(2) The financial
resources of the employing entity or the requesting employee’s
(3) The number of employees requesting leave for each day
subject to such a request.
(4) The financial impact on the
employing entity or requesting employee’s program resulting from
the employee’s absence and whether that impact is greater than a
de minimus cost to the employer in relation to the size of the
employing entity or requesting employee’s program.
(5) Impact on
the employing entity, the requesting employee’s program, workplace
safety or public safety.
(6) Type of operations of the employing
entity or requesting employee’s program.
(7) Geographic location
of the employee or geographic separation of the particular program
to the operations of the employing entity.
(8) Nature of the
(9) Deprivation of another employee’s job
preference or other benefit guaranteed by a bona fide seniority
system or collective bargaining agreement.
(10) Any other impact
on the employing entity’s operation or requesting employee’s
program due to the employee’s absence.Applying these
factors is a question of fact. To succeed on summary judgment, the
employer must present undisputed evidence that accommodating
Suarez’s request for unpaid leave caused the employer "significant
difficulty or expense."
The court said:
School contends that calling in an employee for mandatory overtime
is more than a de minimus expense, nothing in the record
demonstrates context. There is no evidence demonstrating the
actual impact on the School’s finances “in relation to the size of
the employing entity or requesting employee’s program.” WAC
82-56-020(4). Nor is there evidence that the cost or inconvenience
to the employees was more than de minimus. While the cost of
calling in an employee on mandatory overtime might be significant
to a smaller employer, the cost may very well be de minimus to a
large employer.Thus, the School was not entitled to
prevail on summary judgment, and Suarez can proceed to proving her