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Lansing faces religious discrimination lawsuit

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Michigan Municipal League
/
flickr.com
The State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the City of Lansing. The lawsuit claims the Lansing city jail fired a Seventh Day Adventist because she did not show up for work on a Saturday.

The lawsuit claims Sylvia Coleman told the city she could not work between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday because that period is the Seventh Day Adventist Sabbath when work is discouraged.

That lawsuit says the city’s decision violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Justice Department wants the city to implement new employment policies and award Sylvia Coleman unspecified monetary damages.

“Religious discrimination and intolerance have no place in the workplace today,” said a statement from Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “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 statement says efforts by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to reach a resolution met with failure before the case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Lansing spokesperson Scott Bean told Michigan Public Radio the city intends to fight the lawsuit.

“The City of Lansing does not comment on active lawsuits,” he said. “However, after reviewing this case, we find it to be inconsistent with the facts and the law.”

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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