Small v. Memphis Light, Gas & Water, No. 19-5710 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
For many years, Small worked as an electrician at Memphis Light (ML). In 2013, he suffered an on-the-job injury that required him to change positions. Small expressed interest in becoming a revenue inspector. ML offered him work as a service dispatcher. Without another offer, Small accepted that position. Small raised concerns that the position would conflict with the practice of his religion (Jehovah’s Witness). Small had Wednesday evening and Sunday services and community work on Saturdays. ML denied his requests for reassignment, explaining that the accommodations would impose undue hardship and that its union required shifts to be assigned based on seniority. ML suggested that Small swap shifts with his co-workers or use paid time off. Later, ML offered Small the option to “blanket swap” shifts for an entire quarter. Small remained in the dispatcher position.
In 2017, Small sued for disability and religious discrimination. The district court granted ML summary judgment. Small moved to enforce an alleged settlement agreement between the parties. The court found that the parties had never agreed to a settlement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. ML offered a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for not giving Small a position as an inspector--its determination that Small physically could not do the work. ML did not have to offer any accommodation of his religion that would impose “undue hardship” on its business. The evidence indicated that the parties never agreed on the material terms of a settlement.