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Wagner Labor and Employment Law

Tatum Novitzky and Kassi Mettler

New York


Paul Edgecomb is a correctional officer at Cold Mountain Penitentiary ("Cold Mountain") in the State of Wagner. Edgecomb was employed as a correctional officer for about three years before he converted to the Seers of the Face of God ("SFG") religion. The SFG is a popular religion within the State of Wagner. Shortly after converting, he married and had a child with a life-long member of the SFG. Members of the SFG believe it is a sin to work on Saturdays. SFG members are instructed that Saturdays are meant for prayer, reflection, and engagement in activities which spread the message of the SFG. As a junior correctional officer, Edgecomb is required to work daily shifts Wednesday through Sunday each week. Cold Mountain attempted to accommodate Edgecomb's religious practice but could not meet the demands completely.

Since Edgecomb's first day at Cold Mountain he raised concerns with how the prison handles meal breaks. He would prefer to have complete solace during meal breaks, but the prison's guidelines require him to be ready to respond to emergencies. Edgecomb also disfavors interruptions by his co-workers.

Almost one year after converting to SFG, Edgecomb learned that his newborn son had fallen ill with a rare disease. Edgecomb decided that he needed to use his leave entitlement under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). He was discouraged to take FMLA leave by his co-workers and supervisor. Ultimately, Edgecomb took his full 12-week FMLA leave. After his return to Cold Mountain, his co-workers began to give him the cold shoulder. Edgecomb had a history of tardiness and within three weeks of his return to work he was terminated as a result of being late to his shift on the day of a thunderstorm.

Questions Presented:

1. Whether an employer must eliminate the conflict between an employee's religious practice and the essential job duties to satisfy the religious accommodation obligation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

2. Whether Petitioner was entitled to compensation for meal breaks under the FLSA.

3. Under 29 U.S.C. Section 2615(a)(1), whether discouragement from using FMLA leave is sufficient for an FMLA interference claim, or must the employee actually be denied leave or other benefits under the FMLA.

4. What is the appropriate causation standard for FMLA retaliation claims under 29 U.S.C. Section 2615(a)(2)?


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