Court Rejects Worker’s Pilgrimage
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A woman was entitled to time off from her department store job to go on a pilgrimage to Yugoslavia in hopes of seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary _ but not during the store’s busy holiday season, a federal appeals court ruled.
Saying the timing of the pilgrimage was ``a personal preference and not part of her calling,″ the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a judge’s $16,445 award against a Phoenix department store that fired Mary Tiano.
Tiano, a devout Catholic, said she had a ``calling from God″ in August 1988 to attend a pilgrimage planned that October to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, where several people reported seeing visions of Mary.
She asked for an unpaid leave from her job in the women’s shoe department at a Dillard Department Store in the Park Central Mall in Phoenix, but was turned down because the store prohibited leaves during the October-through-December holiday season.
Tiano left anyway, returned about two weeks later and was told she had resigned voluntarily. She did not find another job until 1990.
After a non-jury trial, U.S. District Judge Roger Strand ruled that Tiano had suffered religious discrimination because the store had refused to offer a reasonable accommodation for her sincere religious belief. He awarded her $16,445 for lost wages.
But the appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling, said Tiano had failed to show that she needed to go on a pilgrimage at that particular time.
Her only evidence was her own testimony that ``I had to be there at that time,″ said the opinion by Judge Charles Wiggins. He said it was contradicted by other evidence.
Bradley Schleier, Tiano’s attorney, declined comment. Charles L. Chester, an attorney for the store, was unavailable, his office said.