March 1, 2016

Helping an Adventist With His Sabbath Work Conflict

, GleanerNow, with Adventist Review staff

My cell phone rang.

It was Jeffrey Britt, a member of the Bremerton Seventh-day Adventist Church in the U.S. state of Washington.

Britt is a 30-year Navy veteran who decided to return to work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, as a civil service employee. His employer had harassed him about requesting time off work to observe Sabbath, and the shipyard had a legal document that it wanted him to sign. The document would require his boss to take sensitivity classes and nothing more.

Jeffrey Britt, an Adventist believer and 30-year Navy veteran. (GleanerNow)

I told him not to sign it and that the Northwest Religious Liberty Association would help him out. The Northwest Religious Liberty Association, where I work as vice president, is a Seventh-day Adventist-affiliated organization that promotes religious freedom in the U.S. Northwest and assists local church members like Britt with Sabbath conflicts. U.S. law stipulates that employers must give reasonable accommodation to employees’ religious beliefs.

Britt’s documentation showed that his employer had not accommodated his Sabbath requests and that he had been threatened with dismissal. He had to use up his “paid time off” — all because he had stood up to a supervisor and politely requested a Sabbath accommodation.

All parties agreed to mediate the complaint. Two federal government mediators were assigned, and the mediation took place in Seattle, Washington. I reminded the shipyard 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 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 Britt was accommodated — and reimburse the paid leave he had taken.

Britt was relieved.

“If you stand up for God, others will stand with you," he told me.

Church members who have Sabbath conflicts with work and school can first contact their pastor for assistance. Additional help can come from the local church conference and the church representative who oversees religious freedom issues. The person often holds the title “public affairs and religious liberty director.”

Recent Adventist Review articles about Sabbath work conflicts:

Hospital Sued for Not Giving Adventist Nurse the Sabbath Off

Adventist Awarded $22,000 in Sabbath Case at Dunkin’ Donuts

Adventist Awarded $150,000 Over Sabbath Dismissal

3 Adventists Sue U.S. Baseball Team Over Sabbath