Hospital Sued for Not Giving Adventist Nurse the Sabbath Off

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The U.S. government is suing a privately owned hospital group in the state of Minnesota, accusing it of revoking a job offer in retaliation against a Seventh-day Adventist nurse who sought the Sabbath off.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a U.S. government agency, says North Memorial Health Care violated U.S. law on religious accommodation in the workplace by rescinding the job offer for Emily Sure-Ondara to work as a registered nurse.

Sure-Ondara, 37, received the written job offer in November 2013 and then asked her new employers for a schedule that would allow her to not work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, according to the U.S. government lawsuit filed Wednesday.

North Memorial rejected the Sabbath request and withdrew the job offer eight days later, the lawsuit says.

North Memorial officials refused the request because “they couldn’t do it under the [labor] union contract,” U.S. government lawyer Jessica Palmer-Denig told the Minnesota Star Tributenewspaper.

Sure-Ondara later told North Memorial that she would be willing to work on Sabbath, but the Robbinsdale, Minnesota-based hospital group withdrew her job offer anyway, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a statement.

“We plan to show North Memorial’s decision to withdraw the job offer after Sure-Ondara’s request was retaliatory and unlawful,” said Jean P. Kamp, another government lawyer.

“Job applicants and employees may request a religious accommodation at any time,” Kamp said in the statement. “Applicants are not required to notify a potential employer about an accommodation issue before starting a job, though that’s what Ms. Sure-Ondara did. This lawsuit is about what happened next.”

The Adventist Church views Sabbath observance as a matter of personal conscience in the health-care industry, said Todd R. McFarland, associate general counsel for the Adventist world church, who has been involved in a number of Sabbath workplace cases. Read More

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