Pediatrics 2000 to Pay $68,000 to Settle Religious Accommodation Lawsuit

New York City Medical Practice Fired Administrative Assistant and Denied Request for Religious Accommodation, Federal Agency Charged

NEW YORK (STL.News) Pediatrics 2000, a Manhattan private medical practice serving children and teens, has agreed to pay $68,000 and take substantial non-monetary action to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Pediatrics 2000 was aware that its worker was a Jehovah’s Witness when she was hired and initially accommodated her request not to work on Wednesdays due to her religious practices on that day.  But then the company demonstrated animus toward her religion, saying that her religion was a “cult,” and placed her on probation for “missing” work on Wednesdays.  When the worker requested to be excused from the company’s holiday party for religious reasons, she was fired — even though other employees were permitted to miss the party for non-religious reasons.

Such conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects employees from discrimin­ation because of their religious beliefs in the workplace.  The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. Pediatrics 2000, Civil Action No. 19 Civ. 9076), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.  This case was litigated by EEOC trial attorney Liane T. Rice, supervised by supervisory trial attorney Kimberly A. Cruz.

On June 30, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos entered a four-year consent decree to resolve the case.  The decree gives $68,000 in lost wages and other damages for the worker and grants injunctive relief, including: the creation of anti-discrimination policies and procedures that commit Pediatrics 2000 to provide equal opportunity in all aspects of employment, including religious beliefs; the appointment of equal employment opportunity coordinators to investigate and resolve discrimination complaints; training for both management and employees about their rights and obligations under Title VII; an employment reference for the employee; and periodic reporting to the EEOC.

“Accommodation of an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs is the law, and EEOC will enforce this obligation in court when necessary to bring an employer into compliance,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein.

Judy Keenan, the EEOC’s New York District director, said, “The diversity of our community demands that employers understand Title VII’s prohibitions against religious discrimination.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.