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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Rent-A-Center, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 18, 2013

RENT-A-CENTER, INC., Defendant.

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Edward O'Farrell Loughlin, Tracy Hudson Spicer, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Peter John Petesch, Steven E. Kaplan, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Washington, DC, Andrew Trusevich, Edward F. Berbarie, Robert F. Friedman, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Dallas, TX, for Defendant.



Plaintiff United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq., alleging that defendant Rent-A-Center, Inc. (" RAC" ) discriminated against an employee, Mr. Ferdinand Charles, by refusing to reasonably accommodate his religious belief which prohibited him from working on Saturdays. Now before the Court is RAC's motion for summary judgment and attorneys' fees. ECF No. 25. Upon consideration of this motion, EEOC's Opposition, ECF No. 27, RAC's Reply, ECF No. 28, applicable law, the record, and for the reasons given below, the Court will GRANT RAC's motion for summary judgment, DISMISS EEOC's complaint with

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prejudice, and DENY RAC's request for attorneys' fees.


A. Summary

Mr. Charles worked for RAC for several years at various stores before being promoted to Store Manager at RAC's Seat Pleasant, Maryland location in 2006. Pl.'s Opp'n 2-3; Def.'s Statement 4, ECF No. 25-1. As was true of his earlier work for RAC, this position required Mr. Charles to work Saturdays. Pl.'s Opp'n 3; Def.'s Statement 4; Dep. of Ferdinand Charles (" Charles Dep." ) 62:13-15, 67:2-4, Pl.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 27-2 & Def.'s Ex. B, ECF No. 25-4. After several months working Saturdays, Mr. Charles informed RAC that his religious beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist prevented him from continuing to do so. Pl.'s Opp'n 1-2; Def.'s Statement 7; Charles Dep. 51: 5-18, 93-94. Mr. Charles' supervisor, District Manager Ray Taylor informed Mr. Charles that RAC would not allow him to take every Saturday off, and Mr. Charles submitted his resignation. Pl.'s Opp'n 3-4; Def.'s Statement 7. Before his resignation was effective, however, another RAC District Manager, Monique Jones, offered to accommodate Mr. Charles' request, and brought him in as Store Manager at RAC's Alabama Avenue location in Washington, D.C. (" Alabama Ave. Store" ). Pl.'s Opp'n 4; Def.'s Statement 7; Charles Dep. 94. Beginning in September 2006, Mr. Charles worked as the Store Manager for this location and did not work Saturdays. Def.'s Statement 7; Charles Dep. 95. In November, RAC " realigned" its stores and Mr. Taylor became District Manager in charge of the Alabama Ave. Store. Pl.'s Statement 7-8; Def.'s Statement 10. Mr. Taylor discussed the issue of Mr. Charles' no-Saturday schedule with Regional Director David McNichol, who determined that RAC could not continue to accommodate Mr. Charles in this manner. Def.'s Statement 11; Pl. Opp'n 7-9. Mr. Charles was terminated for refusing to work Saturdays in February 2007. Pl.'s Opp'n 9; Def.'s Statement 12.

B. RAC's Business

RAC is in the rent-to-own business. At its retail stores, customers select furniture, electronics, appliances, and other merchandise from the showroom floor, enter into rental agreements, and have the merchandise delivered to their homes. Def.'s Statement 1-2; see also Pl.'s Opp'n at 2-3. The rental agreements customers sign provide for weekly or monthly payments, and many of RAC's customers physically come into the store to make these payments. Def.'s Statement 2; Charles Dep. 107:13-20. The stores are leanly staffed: during the fall of 2006 while Mr. Charles was managing the Alabama Avenue store, it was fully staffed with six employees, including Mr. Charles. Def.'s Statement 1, 8; Charles Dep. 102:8-13.

C. Store Managers

The Store Manager is the highest ranking employee at an RAC store, and is charged with special supervisory, training, financial, customer service and managerial responsibilities.[1] Pl.'s Opp'n 3, 5; Def.'s

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Statement 5; Charles Dep. 72-74, 108-09. In addition, certain tasks can only be performed by a Store Manager, such as awarding " free time" to customers,[2] authorizing reduced payments, and accessing certain " reports." Def.'s Statement 5-6; Charles Dep. 82-86; 115:4-13; Pl.'s Opp'n 7. While EEOC suggests that many managerial and supervisory functions could also be performed by an Assistant Manager, it does not ...

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