KNOXVILLE (AP) — A member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church is being allowed to proceed with her lawsuit that claims she was unfairly fired by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville because she refused to work on her Sabbath.
A panel of judges for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled 2-1 Tuesday in favor of Kimberly Crider, overturning a lower court decision that dismissed her lawsuit.
Crider was hired in May 2008 as a Programs Abroad Office coordinator. The job included monitoring a cellphone on nights and weekends for emergency calls from the roughly 1,000 students studying in 35 countries. The duty rotated between Crider and two other coordinators.
Soon after she was hired, Crider asked not to work on the Seventh Day Adventist Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. She asked for an accommodation and proposed changing the rotation to reduce the total number of days her colleagues had phone duties but increase the number of weekends they were responsible for it.
The colleagues told the supervisor they were unwilling to make the change and one threatened to quit. The university then asked Crider to carry the phone on weekends when the other coordinators were out of town or during an emergency. It dismissed her when she refused.
Crider sued claiming religious discrimination.
The appeals court ruled that the university shouldn’t have won a summary judgment in district court because there were questions about whether UT tried hard enough to accommodate Crider.
“Offering Crider fewer Saturday shifts is not a reasonable accommodation to religious beliefs which prohibit working on Saturdays,” the opinion said.
The ruling also said it was questionable whether the effect of Crider’s request on a co-worker amounted to undue hardship for UT.