EEOC details employer rules as religious worker complaints rise

March 6, 2014

 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, detailed guidelines for employers Thursday (March 6) as the number of complaints and million-dollar settlements for cases of religious workplace discrimination neared record levels in 2013.

An EEOC spokesperson, Justine Lisser, said Thursday that the 20-year trend shows “a persistent uptick in religious discrimination charges that continues unabated.” Complaints have more than doubled since 1997. Lisser also said that representatives of religious groups have asked for more EEOC outreach in this area.

There have been guidelines in the past but the EEOC spelled out workplace rights and responsibilities in a new question-and-answer guide and accompanying fact sheet.

The new guidelines detail how businesses with more than 15 employees must accommodate workers with “sincerely” held religious beliefs — and unbelievers who “sincerely” refuse religious garb or insignia. Businesses cannot refuse to interview a Sikh with a turban or a Christian wearing a cross. Neither can they limit where employees work because of their religious dress.

In 2013, Umme-Hani Khan won her case against Abercrombie & Fitch, filed in 2011, after a supervisor said she didn’t fit the model look for their San Mateo, Calif., store because she wore a headscarf.

Title VII, which is enforced by the EEOC, “defines religion very broadly to include not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or may seem illogical or unreasonable to others.”

The rules apply to the sincerely unreligious as well, as long as these views relate to “what is right or wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”

According to the EEOC, in fiscal year 2013, the commission received 3,721charges alleging religious discrimination, more than double the 1,709 charges received in fiscal year 1997.

RNS.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/03/06/eeoc-details-employer-rules-religious-worker-complaints-rise/

Abercrombie Struggling To Prove Fired Woman’s Hijab Hurt Sales: Report

Abercrombie & Fitch is having a hard time proving in court that the Muslim headscarf worn by an employee who was fired in 2010 hurt the clothing company’s sales, Law360 reports.

On Tuesday, when a federal judge in California pressed attorney Mark Knueve, who is representing Abercrombie, if he or any of his witnesses had financial records to show the woman’s hijab hurt sales, Knueve said he didn’t.

“A defendant says we’re harmed but provides no real evidence?” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers retorted, according to the report. “And you want me to grant summary judgment [in your favor]?”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) originally sued Abercrombie in 2011 on behalf of Hani Khan, the Muslim woman who says she was fired from a Hollister store in a California mall in 2010 because she wore a hijab to work. (Abercrombie owns Hollister.)

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Khan was wearing the religious garment when she interviewed for the job in October 2009 and during the first four months she worked at the San Mateo, Calif., clothing store.

Yet in February 2010, when a visiting district manager saw her wearing it and spoke with one of the store’s human resources employees, they decided the headscarf violated the store’s controversial “Look Policy,” which critics have said is usually interpreted to mean white, muscular and thin.

On Wednesday, Abercrombie spokesman Mackenzie Bruce told The Huffington Post the company does not discriminate based on religion and that it grants religious accommodations, including for hijabs, when such accommodations are considered “reasonable.”

This isn’t the first time Abercrombie has been in trouble over this issue. In 2009 the clothing store was found guilty of discrimination and ordered to pay $20,000 to a 19-year-old Muslim college student who was refused a job because her hijab violated the store’s “Look Policy.”

Woman Says Abercrombie & Fitch Co. fired her over headscarf

In San Francisco, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a complaint on behalf of Hani Khan, a former employee of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Ms. Khan says a district manager has told her that headscarf is not allowed in work and that she has been fired for not taking her scarf off. CAIR filed its Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint last week. Abercombie has another pending lawsuit regarding its alleged refusal of hiring a Muslim women wearing headscarf in Tulsa.

Religious bias complaint filed over store hiring

A teenage Muslim girl filed a complaint against a store at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Woodland Hills Mall, for refusing to hire her because she wears a headscarf. The girl says that a district manager for Abercrombie & Fitch told her that the religious garment doesn’t fit the retail chain’s image. CAIR helped the girl file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and asked the store to apologize to the girl. “Employers have a clear legal duty to accommodate the religious practices of their workers,” said Razi Hashmi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma. “To deny someone employment because of apparent religious bias goes against long-standing American traditions of tolerance and inclusion.”