Lizalek v. Invivio Corp., No. 08-3626 (7th Cir. Mar. 16, 2009)

| Mar 16, 2009 | Daily Developments in EEO Law |

Fired for annoying his co-workers by addressing himself in the third person, Mr. Gary Lizalek brings suit under the religious reasonable-accommodation provision of Title VII. The Seventh Circuit, in this unpublished decision, proves unaccommodating.

The court sizes up the situation thusly:

“Gary Lizalek’s religious beliefs make for a complicated identity. As a matter of faith, he understands himself to be three separate beings: (1) GARY C LIZALEK, ‘a trust that was created by the Social Security Administration . . . to generate assets for its beneficiary, the United States Government’; (2) Gary C. Lizalek, Trustee; and (3) Gary C. Lizalek, Steward, who ‘lends . . . consciousness and physical abilities to said Trust.” His employer asked that he stick with a single identity for professional purposes, but Lizalek refused. Shortly thereafter he was terminated . . . .

“In October 2005 Lizalek accepted a job with Invivo Corporation. Within days he sent a letter to Invivo, in his capacity as ‘steward,’ explaining that, ‘I have covenanted all of my time, talent, effort, energy, everything I have ever had and everything I will ever have to the building up of the Kingdom of God on Earth.’ Nevertheless, wrote Lizalek, ‘We see no conflict between said Covenant and the employment of GARY C LIZALEK [the trust] with Invivo Corp.’ Despite Lizalek’s optimism, his employment did not go smoothly. Almost immediately employees began to complain about his ‘odd and problematic behavior.’ Additionally, his practice of alternating between identities in email correspondence raised concerns among his supervisors ‘about how his confusing and unprofessional writing style would be regarded’ by Invivo customers. To further complicate things, he signed his W-4 as ‘Gary Lizalek, TTEE,’ — evidently invoking his second identity — and claimed that he was exempt from any tax liability.”

The spoilsports at Invivio fired all three Lizaleks (who then, I take it, descended en masse to the state unemployment office to cause more havoc).  The Seventh Circuit affirms summary judgment, and — while not passing in whether Mr. Lizalek’s faith was bona fide — holds that it would have been more than a minimal burden to accommodate his behavior. 

Mr. Lizalek may not be cut out for corporate America, but isn’t there anyone who can find a job for this lost soul?


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