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The Justice Department announced today that it filed a lawsuit against the City of Lansing, Michigan, alleging that Lansing discriminated against former detention officer Sylvia Coleman on the basis of her religion, when it terminated her employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion.

“Religious discrimination and intolerance have no place in the workplace today,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Employees should not have to choose between their religion and their livelihood, particularly when the employer can accommodate their religious beliefs. The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the religious rights and religious freedom of employees by ensuring that no one faces unlawful discrimination in the workplace.”

According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on July 15, 2022, Coleman informed the City of Lansing that she could not work a shift from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday because of her religious observance of the Sabbath as a Seventh-day Adventist. Yet the City of Lansing failed to take adequate steps to reasonably accommodate her religious observance and instead terminated her employment, following her first scheduled Saturday shift. The complaint also alleges that the City of Lansing failed to show that accommodating Coleman would cause undue hardship on the operation of its business. Through this lawsuit, the United States seeks to have the City of Lansing develop and implement policies that would prevent religious discrimination, seeks monetary damages for Coleman, and seeks other appropriate relief.

The Indianapolis District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated and attempted to resolve Coleman’s charge of discrimination before referring it to the Department of Justice. More information about the EEOC’s jurisdiction is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

This case is being handled by Senior Trial Attorneys Sara Safriet and Robert Galbreath of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.

Ensuring that local, county and state governments comply with Title VII is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division and the jurisdiction of the Employment Litigation Section is available on its websites at www.justice.gov/crt/ and https://www.justice.gov/crt/employment-litigation-section.

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