Trump | Employee sacked for 'refusing to work Sundays'

Employee sacked for 'refusing to work Sundays'

Following a religion or philosophical belief is a right any employee has, and as such, they shouldn’t be discriminated against for it. However, in some instance’s individuals have been.

One such recent case includes a former housekeeper at President Donald Trump’s Las Vegas hotel, who claimed that she was fired for refusing to work on a Sunday so that she could attend church, Bloomberg reported.

Sonia Perez stated that she worked at the Trump International Hotel from 2010 to 2015 without any incidents occurring, where she had Sundays off so she could attend religious services at her non-denominational Christian church.

However, in a lawsuit the former employee stated that after the employees unionised in 2018, her shift was changed to include Sunday hours.

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In a lawsuit that was filed on Tuesday in Las Vegas federal court, Perez stated that she refused to come to work on Sundays ‘because of her sincerely held religious belief’.

Perez added that she used accrued ‘attendance points’ to make up for her time off on Sundays in order to attend church, but claimed that when these ran out, she was fired from her role.

She went on to accuse the parent company Trump Ruffin Commercial Inc., which runs Trump hotels, of religious discrimination and failure to accommodate her beliefs.

Discrimination in the UK

While this matter took pace in the US, where employment law differs to the UK, under the UK Equality Act 2010, facing any form of discrimination within the workplace is illegal, and due to this employees are protected from discrimination under the legislation.

Despite this, employees have faced discrimination due to their personal or religious beliefs before. For example, last year a case hit headlines after a doctor was fired from his position after he stated he would not refer to ‘any 6ft tall bearded man’ as ‘madam’.

At the time Dr David Mackereth claimed that the Department for Work and Pensions discriminated against his religious beliefs because he would not use pronouns relating to people’s ‘chosen’ sex.

According to Acas, however, employees or jobseekers are able to refrain from carrying out certain tasks for example if they go against their own personal or religious beliefs. It states: “A job applicant or employee may ask to opt out of certain duties because of their religion or belief. Examples might include handling meat, alcohol or contraceptives.”

Better understanding

In regard to alleged cases such as Perez’s, it’s crucial for HR to have a better understanding of the different personal and religious beliefs each employee may have. This is a notion supported by Emily Lofting-Kisakye, HR Director at lifestyle retail brand Urban Outfitters, who previously told HR Grapevine: “HR should be promoting understanding of personal values and beliefs and working with the business to find adapted ways of working to satisfy all parties.”

While there are currently no strict guidelines in the UK based on whether an employee can be sacked due to their personal beliefs, Charlie Wood, Employment Law & HR Solicitor at SAS Daniels, alluded that this could soon be something that the courts decide to support in the future.

With this in mind, HR should ensure no employees are discriminated against due to their personal beliefs, and should therefore encourage open communication between staff and their superiors in order to prevent situations similar to that of the former Trump employee from occurring.

Wood explained: “It would all very much depend on the facts of the relevant case – however the courts have supported dismissals in the past where someone’s refusal to carry out work on the basis of their personal beliefs caused another group of people to be discriminated against. Essentially, employees cannot use religious beliefs as an excuse to treat people less favourably.”

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