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Mesaba Airlines accused of religious discrimination

Written by editor

The airline wouldn’t accommodate a worker who refused to work the Sabbath, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says in a lawsuit.

The airline wouldn’t accommodate a worker who refused to work the Sabbath, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says in a lawsuit.

Mesaba Airlines is accused of violating federal law in the firing of a Jewish worker who refused to work the Sabbath.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Minneapolis alleged religious discrimination in a lawsuit filed late Tuesday against Mesaba, a regional airline based in Eagan that Northwest Airlines acquired last year in bankruptcy.

The EEOC alleges that Laura Vallejos was fired from the airline on Oct. 5 for refusing to complete a scheduled shift change that required her to work past sundown on a Friday evening. Vallejos worked as a customer service agent at Mesaba’s facilities at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A spokesman for Mesaba did not immediately return a call for comment.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that Mesaba prohibited employees from making voluntary shift swaps within their initial 90 days of employment. After Vallejos filed a charge of religious discrimination, Mesaba dropped the policy, but the EEOC alleges that other employees in customer service positions at the airline were adversely affected.

In a written press statement, EEOC regional attorney John Hendrickson said Vallejos “did everything the law requires workers to do when they need a religious accommodation.” Vallejos advised her employer during her job interview that she couldn’t work the Sabbath, told managers of the impending conflict and proposed several accommodations, according to the EEOC. “Unfortunately for Ms. Vallejos, Mesaba couldn’t bring itself to comply with its obligation” under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, Hendrickson said in the statement.