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/

CAIR-Cincinnati to Announce EEOC Complaints Against DHL for Firing 24 Muslim Workers Over Prayers

November 7, 2013

 

Later today, the Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Cincinnati) will hold a news conference to announce the filing of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) civil rights complaint on behalf of 24 former workers at the DHL Global Mail facility in Hebron, Ky., who were fired for exercising their legally protected religious rights.

CAIR-Cincinnati says the DHL workers were dismissed from their jobs for asserting their right to reasonable accommodation for their religious practices, including daily prayer.

“CAIR has informed the company of its obligation under the law to reasonably accommodate these workers’ religious practices,” said CAIR-Cincinnati Executive Director Karen Dabdoub. “Instead of abiding by the law and doing the right thing, DHL has decided to stand behind their violation of these workers’ civil rights.”

Background:

On October 9, DHL Global Mail fired a group of 24 workers, some of whom had been working at DHL for up to 6 years, for refusing to accept a new workplace rule that violated their rights under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In this case, the DHL workers had been using their break time to perform the evening (Maghrib) prayer. The company reportedly decided to eliminate flexible break times, thereby preventing the men and women from practicing their faith. When the workers asserted their legal rights, they were all fired.

Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12243-cair-cincinnati-to-announce-eeoc-complaints-against-dhl-for-firing-24-muslim-workers-over-prayers.html

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.”

CAIR-Ohio Files Muslim Workers’ Bias Complaints Against DHL Subsidiary

The Columbus, Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Columbus) announced today that it has filed discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Exel, Inc., a subsidiary of DHL, on behalf of 18 Muslim employees who were allegedly fired for praying in the workplace.

 

The Muslim employees reported to CAIR-Columbus that they had asked the company several times for prayer accommodations, including adjusting break times or taking their prayer breaks without pay, but the company repeatedly denied any of the accommodations proposed by the employees. One manager allegedly told the employees they should pray in the bathroom so they wouldn’t be seen praying. Other managers told them to “obey the rules or get fired.”

 

In their complaints, the employees say they made an effort to resolve the dispute by trying to speak to human resources, but that Exel managers and supervisors repeatedly refused to allow them access to the human resources department.

 

Managers reportedly began terminating Muslim employees when they saw them praying at work. On February 8, 2013 the general manager called a meeting in which he reportedly told a large group of Muslim employees, many of whom had been working for the company for years, that Exel would not change its policies and that the company could not provide a religious accommodation. He ultimately terminated the entire group when they insisted they had a right to religious accommodation.

 

Both state and federal law requires employers to accommodate the religious practices of their employees unless it creates an undue burden on the company.

 

“This company has a history of discriminating against Muslims, especially Muslims of Somali origin,” said CAIR-Ohio Legal Director Jennifer Nimer. “This is not the first time a group of Muslim employees has been fired from this company for requesting a prayer accommodation. This type of blatant discrimination cannot be tolerated.”

 

According to the EEOC, 21 percent of religious discrimination complaints in 2011 involved bias against Muslim workers.

Philly security firm sued over Muslim head scarf

The EEOC is suing ABM Security Services, which provides guards for the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, for religious discrimination after an employee claimed she was forced to choose between keeping her job and wearing her traditional Muslim head covering.
ABM hired Tahira, a devout Muslim, and she reported for training wearing a khimar, a head covering worn by some Muslim women. Her trainer told her to take off the scarf, but she refused, explaining that her religion required it. An ABM representative told her that she could not work at the convention center while wearing the khimar and sent her home.
Tahira filed an EEOC complaint, noting that ABM never discussed accommodations that would allow her to perform the job and observe her religious beliefs. EEOC mediation attempts failed, and now, barring a settlement, the lawsuit will go to trial.

US Workplace religious complaints double over 10 years

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission statistics show that religious discrimination complaints in workplace settings have more than doubled from a little over a decade ago, resulting in roughly $10 million in settlements. Last year, nearly 3,800 were filed.

“Religion has increasingly moved into the private sphere, so when it does pop up in the workplace, we’re less equipped to deal with it in a rational and even-handed manner,” said John Gordon, chairman of the religion department at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio.

Many of the complaints from employees involve wearing head garb or those who say they work for companies that refuse to accommodate their requests for religious days off.

Cynthia Stankiewicz, enforcement manager for the EEOC Cleveland field office, said not allowing time off for religious observances is a common issue. She said many cases come about when employers aren’t aware of employees’ rights or when employers don’t attempt to accommodate requests that do not pose a hardship on the business.

Swift Acted With Bias:Muslims were discriminated against by the meatpacker, the federal panel determines

A federal panel said Monday that it believed Greeley meatpacker JBS Swift violated the civil rights of more than 100 Somali Muslims it fired last year after a walkout over religious differences at the height of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest time.

The determination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission comes exactly a year after hundreds of Somali workers left the slaughterhouse because the company wouldn’t accommodate requests for
prayer time…

The Muslim workers had demanded time to pray at sundown, the end of a dawn-to-dusk fast, a requirement of Islam during Ramadan. More than 300 workers walked out when told they could not break for the day’s final
prayer. About 103 workers were fired days later, not for walking off the job but for not returning to work, Keys said.

The walkout touched off a storm of protests, mostly among workers of different religious faiths who railed at the request for religious accommodation. Federal law requires employers to accommodate the religious requests of its workers.

The EEOC determined Swift had violated a portion of the civil-rights act that forbids certain forms of discrimination in employment. Specifically, it said Swift engaged in a “pattern and practice of discrimination” that included harassment, a hostile work environment, discriminatory job assignments and discipline. It also said Swift denied religious accommodation and retaliated against workers who complained about it.

Post-9/11 Workplace Discrimination Continues

By Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY Nearly four years after the terrorist attacks, Muslim, South Asian and Arab-American employees continue to report discrimination on the job. Compared with the first two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the number of employees saying they’ve been discriminated against as a form of backlash because of the attacks has declined. But charges continue to come in, indicating that Arab-American and other workers still feel discriminated against. “People are being called ‘terrorist’ at work, things of that sort,” says Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director at Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “A lot of cases continue to go on. People have been called Osama bin Laden, told they are going to mosque to learn how to build a bomb.” Nearly 280 claims of discrimination in the workplace were received by CAIR in 2004, and the workplace was the second-most-common location for an alleged incident. The first was government agencies. At the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, about 980 charges alleging post-9/11 backlash discrimination have been filed through June 11 since the 2001 attacks. Most involved firing and alleged harassment; the EEOC specifically tracks “backlash” cases, where employees claim discrimination relating to 9/11. Likewise, religious bias charges are higher today than before 9/11. From Sept. 11, 2001, through June 11, the EEOC received 2,168 charges of discrimination based on an employee’s Muslim religion. That compares with 1,104 such charges in the same time span before the attacks. The agency has obtained more than $4.2 million on behalf of employees alleging post-9/11 backlash. The EEOC has filed lawsuits against employers such as MBNA America Bank, the Plaza hotel in New York, Alamo Rent A Car and construction giant Bechtel. Some Recent Eeoc Cases: – A lawsuit alleging the New York Plaza hotel and Fairmont Hotel Management discriminated against Muslim, Arab and South Asian employees was settled last month for $525,000. A 2001 lawsuit claimed that Plaza employees were called “terrorist,” “Taliban” and “dumb Muslim.” It also alleges that managers wrote “Osama” and “Taliban” instead of employees’ names on key holders. Fairmont Hotel Management managed the hotel, which has since been sold. “As a company, we are committed to providing a work environment free of discrimination or harassment,” says Carolyn Clark, senior vice president of human resources at Fairmont, in Toronto. – In March, upscale seafood restaurant Pesce agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging bias against the store’s general manager. According to the lawsuit, a former co-owner openly speculated that the manager’s Egyptian name and appearance were the reasons Pesce had seen earnings drop in the months after 9/11. The manager was fired. Pesce, which has since been sold to new owners, declined to comment. – The EEOC filed a lawsuit last year against an MBNA subsidiary in Philadelphia claiming in part that offensive comments were made to Indian and black employees after 9/11, including an Indian employee who was called “Osama bin Laden.” The case is pending. MBNA says there is no merit to the claim.