Caribbean Rastafarian Employees Treated Unfairly, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK – Grand Central Partnership, Inc. (GCP) has agreed to settle a religious and national origin discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. GCP was created by Midtown Manhattan property owners and businesses to revitalize the neighborhood surrounding Grand Central Terminal and it provides privately managed sanitation, maintenance and public safety operations.
The EEOC’s lawsuit, Civil No. 08-8023, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charged that GCP discriminated against four public safety officers based on their religion (Rastafarian) and national origins (Caribbean, including Jamaican, Haitian and Trinidadian). The EEOC said the GCP failed to grant the employees’ requests for religious accommodation to the company’s grooming policy, which provided that employees must not wear their hair outside their uniform hats. The officers maintain long dreadlocks and short beards in line with their Rastafarian religious faith. Three of the officers faced suspensions for allegedly violating the grooming policy.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ sincerely held religious beliefs as long as this does not pose an undue hardship.
The consent decree settling the lawsuit provides for injunctive relief and policy changes including revised equal employment policies and procedures and related training for its managers and line employees. GCP will also pay $40,000 to resolve this matter, which will be distributed among the discrimination victims, and all grooming policy-related disciplinary notices will be removed from the their personnel files.
“We appreciate that following the filing of EEOC’s court complaint, GCP voluntarily accommodated these officers by allowing them to wear their dreadlocks in neat ponytails and allowing them to maintain short beards as required by their religious practices, even before the parties reached a formal settlement of this litigation,” said Spencer H. Lewis, director of the EEOC’s New York District Office.
Sunu P. Chandy, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s New York District Office, added, “Employers are obligated to explore how they may accommodate employees’ or applicants’ religious beliefs. In addition to time off for religious services, this may also include accommodations such as allowing time and space for prayer during the workday or, as in this case, making adjustments to grooming and uniform policies.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on August 7, 2009.
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