WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a consent decree with Palm Beach County, Fla., to resolve allegations that the county engaged in unlawful employment discrimination based on religion.
In addition to reaching the consent decree, the Justice Department also filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida specifically alleging that Palm Beach County violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing or refusing reasonably to accommodate a park ranger’s request for a work schedule that allowed for his religious observances of attending church and refraining from work on Sundays.
Under the terms of the consent decree, which must still be approved by the federal court, the park ranger, who resigned when informed that the county would not accommodate his religious observances, would be offered his job back with the county. The county will also offer the park ranger monetary relief, including back pay and retroactive pension contributions. In addition, the county, which already had a religious accommodation policy in place, agreed to enforce that policy and conduct training of its Parks and Recreation Department supervisors to ensure that they properly handle future requests for religious accommodations.
“Public employees should not have to choose between their religious practices and their livelihood,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “While public employers have the authority to set reasonable standards for work schedules, they cannot reflexively refuse to consider a request for a religious accommodation, particularly where the employer has a policy that has granted other employees similar religious accommodations. We are pleased that the county worked cooperatively with the Justice Department to resolve this matter.”
The continued enforcement of Title VII has been a priority of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/.