LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the City of Lansing for alleged discrimination against a former detention officer.
The lawsuit alleges that Sylvia Coleman, a former detention officer, was fired in 2018 when she said she could not work a shift that took place between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday because she was a Seventh Day Adventist and she observed that time as the Sabbath.
Now, an attorney for the City of Lansing has responded, saying the city didn’t do anything wrong.
“In this matter the facts are that the job posted required a capacity to work all shifts in a 7 day, 24 hour rotation,” said Cliff Hammond, counsel for the City of Lansing. “The complainant, in order to receive a job offer for this position misrepresented her ability to work all shifts required by the job. Because of her misrepresentation she received a job offer, after which she asserted that she could not work the hours she said she could previously. This is admitted by the Department of Justice in their complaint.
“Further, the City of Lansing fully cooperated with the DOJ throughout the four years they have investigated this matter. The City has developed robust policies to protect individuals from discrimination and to accommodate religious beliefs. The City provided all its policies to the DOJ and the law the City relied upon in making its determinations. To date the DOJ has not pointed out any policy that is inappropriate or inadequate. The DOJ has not shown that the case law relied upon by the City is not controlling or overturned. On behalf of the City we plan to vigorously defend and assert all the City’s meritorious defenses to this matter.”
Meanwhile, the Justice Department alleges that the city failed to properly accommodate Coleman.
“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 in a press release. “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.”
The suit aims to make the City of Lansing implement policies that prevent religious discrimination and obtain monetary damages for Coleman, among other things.