The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the City of Lansing, Michigan, to resolve allegations of religious accommodation and retaliation. The lawsuit claimed that the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating and retaliating against Sylvia Coleman, a Seventh-day Adventist and former detention officer with the city’s police department. The city allegedly terminated Coleman’s employment instead of reasonably accommodating her religious observance, which is required under Title VII. The city also reportedly retaliated against Coleman by filing a counterclaim against her when she intervened in the United States’ lawsuit.
The department’s amended complaint alleges that, on her first day of work, Coleman informed the city that she could not work a shift from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday because she observed the Sabbath as a Seventh-day Adventist. The complaint alleges that Coleman also informed the city of her religious observance during the application process. The department’s complaint asserted that the city terminated her employment instead of adequately attempting to reasonably accommodate Coleman’s religious observance, which Title VII requires. The amended complaint further alleges the city retaliated against Coleman by filing a counterclaim against her because she intervened in the United States’ lawsuit.
The Justice Department believes that the settlement underscores the importance of ensuring that all employees are protected from religious discrimination in the workplace. Under the settlement, the city will submit religious accommodation and retaliation policies for approval by the Department, as well as proposed trainings on these policies. Additionally, the city will pay Coleman $50,000 in backpay and compensatory damages. The settlement is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.
You can read the entire consent decree below.