Federal court sides with Utah residents over Kellogg in religious discrimination case

Tuesday , January 23, 2018 - 5:15 AM

JACOB SCHOLL, Standard-Examiner Staff

DENVER — The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of two Northern Utah residents who say they were fired from their jobs due to their religious beliefs. 

Richard Tabura and Guadalupe Diaz were fired from their jobs at a Kellogg Company plant in Clearfield in 2012 because they missed work on Saturdays, as they were honoring their religious beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists and would not work on their Sabbath. 

According to court documents, Kellogg began requiring workers to work at least two Saturdays a month in March 2011 to keep up with an increasing demand for their products.

Tabura and Diaz told Kellogg they could not work Saturdays because it was their Sabbath. Seventh-day Adventists observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. 

Kellogg told the two they could use paid vacation time and switch shifts with other workers in order to work around the conflict, documents say.

Despite Tabura and Diaz’s efforts, the two were fired by Kellogg after “disciplinary steps had been exhausted” and the two had missed too much time at work, according to a 2018 court document.

After the two were fired, Tabura and Diaz sued Kellogg for religious discrimination, according to the 2016 court opinion on the case. 

The two based their case on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on someones “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 

The case ultimately went to the Utah District Court. In July 2016, the lawsuit was thrown out by Senior Judge Tena Campbell, according to online court records. The court claimed there was not enough evidence to prove Kellogg violated Title VII provisions.

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Less than a month after the ruling, the plaintiffs appealed the Utah ruling to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. 

According to a press release from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the two pleaded their case on March 22, 2017. Last week on Jan. 17, the appeals court issued their decision. 

The federal appeals court ruled in favor of Tabura and Diaz, effectively sending the case back to the Utah District Court.

It reversed the district court ruling, saying the Utah court “erred” in ruling on the case without a proper trial. 

The Kellogg plant where Tabura and Diaz worked was closed in November 2015.

Campbell, the judge who ruled on the case the first time around, was recused the same day. The case is now assigned to Senior Judge Dale Kimball.

Since the Jan. 17 ruling, Tabura and Diaz have requested a scheduling conference with the district court, but a new hearing date has yet to be set, according to the case docket. 

The Kellogg Company was founded in Michigan in 1906 by Will Keith Kellogg and John Harvey Kellogg, who at the time were members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, according to the press release from the church.

Contact reporter Jacob Scholl at jscholl@standard.net or follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Scholl.

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