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Worker Wrongfully Fired Because Of Failure To Accommodate Her Religious Beliefs EEOC Lawsuit Charges

Religious Discrimination claim and pen on a table.

For more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida employment lawyers have fought for the rights of employment discrimination victims. Through their decades of experience representing employment discrimination victims, our Ocala, Florida employment attorneys know that employers often refuse to accommodate the religious beliefs of employees. Instead of accommodating employees’ religious beliefs when they conflict with an employment requirement, employers terminate employees because of their failure to comply with the employment requirement. In this article, our Marion County, Florida employment lawyers explain how a religious discrimination case recently settled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates that federal employment discrimination law imposes a duty on employers to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

In a press release issued on November 23, 2021, the EEOC announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree resolving a religious discrimination lawsuit against Greyhound Lines, Inc. (Greyhound). On June 4, 2019, the EEOC filed the case, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Greyhound Lines, Inc. Case No. 1:19-cv-01651, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland after initially attempting to resolve the alleged unlawful employment practices through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. Unable to secure from Greyhound an acceptable agreement through informal methods of conciliation, the EEOC sought to remedy the alleged unlawful employment practices through litigation. In the Consent Decree, which U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Hollander signed on November 22, 2021, Greyhound agreed to pay $45,000 to resolve the religious discrimination lawsuit.

Religious Freedom In Workplace

The EEOC brought the religious discrimination lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of a former employee of Greyhound, a woman named Hadith. Title VII makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of religion. Title VII defines the term “religion” broadly to include religious beliefs, practices, and observances. To protect religious freedom in the workplace, Title VII imposes a reasonable accommodation requirement on employers. When an employee’s religious beliefs conflict with an employment requirement, Title VII requires the employer to reasonably accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs. If an employer fails or refuses to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, the employer must prove that an accommodation would have imposed an undue hardship on the operation of its business. In the absence of undue hardship, an employer violates Title VII when it fails or refuses to accommodate an employee’s religion.

The EEOC claims that Greyhound unlawfully discriminated against Hadith in violation of Title VII by denying her a reasonable accommodation for her religious beliefs and constructively discharging her because of its unlawful failure to accommodate Hadith’s religious beliefs. By forcing Haith to quit because of its failure to comply with Title VII’s religious accommodation requirement, the EEOC contends that Greyhound, in effect, wrongfully terminated Hadith’s employment in violation of Title VII.

EEOC Claims Wrongful Termination

In November 2017, Hadith applied to work for Greyhound as a bus driver. Hadith is a practicing Muslim who observes her faith, in part, by dressing modestly in accordance with her understanding of several passages of the Quran. Hadith adheres to this understanding of pious modesty by wearing a headscarf and an abaya, a loose-fitting ankle-length overgarment that conceals the outline of the wearer’s body.

Hadith interviewed for the bus driver position with a man named Remy. During the interview, Hadith wore her headscarf and abaya. Hadith explained her religious practice and asked if her garments would pose a problem in her role as a bus driver. Remy told her that her garments would not be a problem. Greyhound offered Hadith the bus driver position and she accepted.

Alleged Failure To Accommodate Religious Beliefs

After Hadith accepted the offer of employment, Greyhound required her to participate in a three-part training program spanning several months. One training component advised that Greyhound’s uniform requirements included pants. The uniform requirement of wearing pants conflicted with Hadith’s religious practice of dressing modestly to conceal the shape of her body in an abaya. Hadith again contacted Remy and advised the uniform requirement appeared to conflict with her religious practice. Hadith sought assurance that her need for her headscarf and abaya would be accommodated. Remy told Hadith that her religious practice would not be a problem, so long as she submitted a written religious accommodation request form.

While participating in the training program, Hadith continued wearing her headscarf and abaya. On December 5, 2017, Remy met with Hadith and advised that Greyhound required her to wear a knee-length skirt with the uniform pants underneath and claimed that her abaya constituted a safety hazard because she might trip on it. Remy required Hadith to choose between the skirts-and-pants uniform or discontinuing her training. Once again, Hadith informed Remy that the skirts-and-pants uniform conflicted with her religious practice of modest dress by revealing the outline of her body.

Declining to wear skirts-and-pants uniform as a condition of her employment because the employment requirement conflicted with her religious beliefs, Hadith involuntary resigned her employment. The EEOC claims that by forcing Hadith the choose between discontinuing her employment or wearing a uniform that violated her religious practice of modest dress, Greyhound unlawfully forced Haith to quit because of its failure to accommodate her religious beliefs.

Helping Wrongful Termination Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting, administering, and enforcing federal employment discrimination law. As part of its statutory duty to enforce federal employment discrimination law, the EEOC brings lawsuits in federal court against employers who have engaged in unlawful discriminatory employment practices. In a press release issued by the EEOC on November 23, 2020, regarding the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, Jamie R. Williamson, explained that “our right to exercise our religious beliefs is one of our most precious freedoms.” This settlement,” Mr. Williamson observed, “should send a strong message to all employers about the need to provide a religious accommodation.” “Most religious accommodations,” Mr. Williamson added, “can be done easily and without incurring an undue hardship.”

Employment Lawyers In Ocala, FL

Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers throughout Central Florida, our employment attorneys in Ocala, Florida have litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have experienced workplace discrimination or have questions about your rights as an employment discrimination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment lawyers in Ocala, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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