Accommodating the Sabbath

My cell phone rang. It was Jeffrey Britt, a member of the Bremerton Church in Washington.

Jeffrey Britt is a 30-year Navy veteran who decided to come back to work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) as a civil service employee. His employer was harassing him about requesting time off work to observe Sabbath, and they had a legal document they wanted him to sign.

The document would have required his boss to take sensitivity classes and nothing more. I told him not to sign it and that the Northwest Religious Liberty Association would help him out.

His documentation showed that his employer had not accommodated the Sabbath, and they threatened to fire him. He had to use up his “paid time off” — all because he stood up to a supervisor and politely requested a Sabbath accommodation.

All parties agreed to mediate the complaint. Two federal mediators were assigned, and the mediation took place in Seattle, Washington. I reminded the PSNS representatives of the long, rich history of Seventh-day Adventists standing up for their constitutional rights, litigating cases up to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be, and that Jeffrey Britt’s case was no different in that his employer was required to accommodate the Sabbath.

At the end of the day, his employer agreed, in writing, to help find employees to swap shifts with Britt — even pay overtime, if necessary, to make sure Mr. Britt was accommodated — and reimburse the paid leave he had taken. “If you stand up for God, others will stand with you," says Britt.

The Northwest Religious Liberty Association is here to help with your Sabbath conflicts.

Featured in: March 2016