Higher authority may hear religious suit

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A former nursing home activities aide allegedly fired over refusing to pray the rosary with a Catholic resident can proceed with a religious discrimination claim, a federal court ruled in September.

Kelsey Nobach worked in Woodland Village Nursing Home Center in Diamondback, MS, as an activities aide until September 2009. She refused to pray the rosary with a Catholic resident during an unscheduled shift, according to court records. The following week she was fired.

Nobach said her supervisor told her “it doesn't matter if its [sic] against your religion, if you refuse it's insubordination,” according to court records. Nobach testified she was raised as a Jehovah's Witness.

Woodland Village sought summary judgment in April on Nobach's claim, noting that Nobach had four previous write-ups. The U.S. District Court, Southern District of Mississippi denied the nursing home's request on Sept. 4.

District Judge Halil Suleyman Ozerden wrote, “even though Plaintiff has failed to specify her religious affiliation or beliefs, she attests that her personal beliefs differ from what Woodland Village required in performing a rosary, and it was for this reason that she was fired. The Court finds that the record evidence is sufficient to create material fact questions with regard to these issues.”

Woodland Village argued that it would have created an undue hardship to offer an accommodation to Nobach based on her objection to saying the rosary. According to court records, the director of operations at Woodland asserted there was no “reasonably comparable position to which she could have been transferred where conflicts would be less likely to arise.”

But the judge noted that Nobach was called in to work on a Saturday on a different hall than where she normally worked, and questioned whether Woodland Village could make a reasonable accommodation without undue hardship.
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