Security Company Fired Employee for Wearing Religious Head Scarf, Federal Agency Charged
PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia-area security company will pay $50,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal religious discrimination lawsuit, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
The EEOC charged that Imperial Security, Inc. failed to accommodate the religious beliefs of Julie Holloway-Russell, who is Muslim, and terminated her instead. Holloway-Russell wore a khimar, religious garb which covers her hair, ears, and neck, as required by her religious beliefs, when she interviewed for the job of security guard. However, when she reported to her first work assignment wearing her khimar, she was told to remove it. Holloway-Russell respectfully refused to do so because her religious beliefs mandated that she wear the religious head covering.
The EEOC charged that by failing to modify its dress code to allow Holloway-Russell to wear her khimar and instead terminating her, the company violated federal law.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, including modifying dress codes, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement before filing suit in United States District Court for the District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 2:10-CV-04733.
In addition to the monetary relief to Holloway-Russell, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit contains important remedial relief, including prohibiting Imperial Security from further discriminating based on religion or engaging in unlawful retaliation. Imperial Security will designate an EEO officer who will receive complaints of discrimination or retaliation and revise its employee handbook to permit accommodation of religious beliefs. The company will establish a procedure for handling any complaints of discrimination and a disciplinary policy for any employee who engages in discriminatory or retaliatory behavior. The company will also provide annual training on Title VII to all employees, report to the EEOC regarding how it handled any complaints of religious discrimination or retaliation, and post a remedial notice.
“The 21st century workplace is increasingly diverse,” said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “The resolution of this lawsuit should remind all companies of their legal obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s religious beliefs.”
Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio, added, “We are pleased with this settlement. In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement provides significant measures, including the naming of an EEO officer and the adoption of policies and procedures to address discrimination complaints. These injunctive measures should benefit all employees.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.