(INSIDE HIGHER ED) — Like many colleges and universities that send undergraduates abroad to study, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville takes their health and safety seriously, and has an emergency line for students that the coordinators of its Programs Abroad Office monitor 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
That was a problem for Kimberly Crider, who, as a new coordinator in the office in May 2008, told her supervisor that her membership in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church prevented her from working from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday. After two months of back-and-forth between Crider and her managers over possible alternatives, the university fired her in June 2008.
Crider sued the university for religious discrimination later that year, saying that Tennessee officials had not taken reasonable steps under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to accommodate her. (The law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations — in ways that do not cause “undue hardship” on the employer’s business, for the religious practices of its employees.) A federal court last year backed the university’s request for a summary judgment, saying that while Crider had provided evidence that the university had discriminated based on her religion, “the university also met its burden of showing that it cannot reasonably accommodate Crider without incurring undue hardship.”