Religious discrimination claims by a delivery driver for a catering company who was terminated the day after being sent home for wearing a religious head covering survived summary judgment due to the temporal proximity between the events. In EEOC v. Triangle Catering, LLC, the Western District of North Carolina held that the temporal proximity between the employer telling the driver to remove his religious head covering and his termination the following day created a reasonable inference that the driver’s need for a religious accommodation was a motivating factor in his termination. Likely, the employer felt blindsides by the worker because the driver, a Rastafarian male, did not wear his religious head covering to his interview. On his second day of work, he wore the head covering and the co-owner of the employer abruptly asked him to remove it. The driver advised the co-owner of its religious purpose. Nevertheless, the co-owner sent the driver home and said she would discuss next steps with the other owner. The following day, the employer terminated the driver. The termination notice referred to the “hat situation.”
The Court held that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the sincerity of the driver’s religious beliefs, as he did not wear the head covering to the interview. Further, the termination notice described “the confrontational and disrespectful way in which [the driver] handled the hat situation,” but the co-owner testified nothing confrontational or disrespectful occurred. In addition, the employer argued that accommodating the driver’s religious practice would be an undue hardship because the head covering violated applicable health codes and regulations. However, in presenting the argument, the employer failed to cite to any health codes or regulations that would be violated. Thus, the Court found the employer’s argument unavailing.
This case serves as a reminder that adverse action taken on the heels of protected activity is likely to result in a meritorious retaliation claim. In addition, documentation should accurately reflect the events as they occurred.