September 5, 2012

The Patty Tipton Company Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

The Patty Tipton Company settles a religious discrimination lawsuit for $5,000. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Megan Woodard. The problem began when Woodard, a college student, applied for a job from the company. Woodard is a member of a fundamentalist Baptist church and the female members are not allowed to wear pants.

Woodard was denied the position due to her request for the religious accommodation not to wear pants. This is a violation of the law. An employer must make a reasonable accomodation based on someones valid religious beliefs. In this case wearing clothing other than pants would not have affected her job performance and was a reasonable request. Although the settlement was not large it sends a message.

"Discrimination because of a person's religion is illegal and will not be tolerated." "Employers should be on notice that the EEOC will act aggressively to protect people from this type of discrimination." said EEOC attorney Laurie Young
August 17, 2012

Magnetics International Settles Discrimination Lawsuit For $30,000

Magnetics International, Inc. pays $30,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Daniel Bewley. According to published accounts, the company was told Bewley could not work on consecutive Sunday's because of his religious beliefs. This would seem to be a reasonable accommodation for the company to make. Under the law an employer must make a reasonable accommodation for someones religious beliefs. What is reasonable is a matter for the courts to decide if it gets that far but there is enough case law to give good guidance.

The problem arose when the company scheduled him to work a second consecutive Sunday and Bewley refused based on his religious beliefs and his prior notification to the company. In a troubling event the company forced Bewley to choose between working the scheduled Sunday shift and losing his job. He attended his church service on Sunday and the company fired him. This all could have been avoided if the company would have made the simple reasonable accommodation.

“Federal law is clear that employers must make a reasonable effort to accommodate sincerely-held religious beliefs,” said EEOC Attorney Laurie Young. “Doing so is the best way to avoid lawsuits like this.”
August 6, 2012

Morningside House Settles Religious Discrimination Case For $25,000

In an unusual case, Morningside House pays $25,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. This lawsuit was the result of a Muslin not removing her hijab and therefore not getting hired for the job. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). This could have also been a lawsuit involving national origin discrimination because of the what company did, but because the hijab is part of a religious practice, it fell under religious discrimination. In Illinois you could also file with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") for both national origin and religious discrimination.

According to published accounts the director of health and wellness asked Khadijah Salim if she would be willing to remove her hijab if she were hired. The director expressed concerns that if she were hired, the hijab may interfere with her ability to work as a certified nursing assistant. However, Salim said she had worn her hijab throughout her nursing training, which included working in the operating room, and it had never interfered with her ability to perform her duties. This would indicate that there wasn't a problem with wearing the hijab. As you can guess she wasn't hired and the discrimination lawsuit was filed. It seems to me there was a different issue involving her being a Muslim.

“In this case, there was no undue hardship to the employer -- just an apparent overreaction to a reasonable request because of myths and stereotypes about a religion,” said EEOC Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
July 6, 2012

Best Western Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit For $365,000

Hotel groups Pacific Hospitality and Seasons Hotel, which does business as Best Western Evergreen Inn and Best Western Tacoma Dome paid $365,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The employment discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of a group of workers. According to published accounts the general manager persistently harassed and denigrated women, including those who were minorities and had strong religious beliefs. This type of activity resuled in a multiple count discrimination lawsuit based on racial discrimination, gender discrimination and religious discrimination.

A group of female employees were subjected to the constant use of racial slurs and derogatory sex-based and racial comments, yelling and physical intimidation. Things got even worse for on employee who had a stapler thrown at her head. I can't believe this type of activity actually took place at a place of work. Another woman was told she was nothing but a welfare mother and should abort her pregnancy. There must have been some backward thinking people working at this hotel. To make matters worse the general manager also illegally fired five women after they revealed they were pregnant--which would be pregnancy discrmination.

“The women in this case were trying to support their families—to keep the lights on and put food on the table. Rather than being allowed to work, they were threatened, screamed at, subjected to sexist and racist slurs by upper management and had their religious beliefs belittled." said EEOC attorney William R. Tamayo.

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June 10, 2012

Whitehall Healthcare Center Pays $35,000 To Settle Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

Whitehall Healthcare Center of Ann Arbor pays $35,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The employment discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). In what seems to be an increasing type of discrimination occuring throughout the country, the company did not follow federal employment law. According to published accounts Whitehall discriminated against a woman, employed as a certified nursing assistant, because of her request for a religious accommodation. Under the law an employer must make a reasonable accomodation for a request based on an employees religious beliefs.

The employee was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, and requested Whitehall not to schedule her to work on Wednesdays or Sundays so she could attend spiritual meetings and participate in field service as a part of her sincerely held religious belief. This would seem to be a reasonable accomodation as long as she were able to work the other days. The problem arose when Whitehall’s administrator fired her for not working on a Sunday.

“Federal law is clear that employers must make a reasonable effort to achieve an accommodation to solve a situation like this,” said EEOC Attorney Laurie Young.
April 28, 2012

Taco Bells Franchise Pays $27,000 To Settle Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

Family Foods, Inc., which owns a Taco Bell restaurant pays $27,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Christopher Abbey. According to published documents Abbey is a practicing Nazirite who, in accordance with his religious beliefs, has not cut his hair since he was 15-years old. I guess it is safe to say his hair is long. Abbey worked for the company for six years before the company informed him that he had to cut his hair in order to comply with its grooming policy. This is really bizarre that they allowed him to work so long and then all of a sudden required him to cut his hair.

When Abbey explained that he could not cut his hair because of his religion, the company told Abbey that unless he cut his hair, he could no longer continue to work at its Taco Bell restaurant. The company ended up firing Abbey in violation of federal law. An employer must make reasonable accommodations for peoples religious beliefs. In this case it would not have been that big a deal. After all Abbey had been wearing long hair for years prior to the company requiring him to cut it.

“No person should be forced to choose between his religion and his job when the company can provide an accommodation without suffering an undue hardship,” said Lynette A. Barnes, EEOC attorney.
April 1, 2012

AutoZone Inc. Pays $75,000 To Settle A Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

AutoZone, Inc., pays $75,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to published accounts of the alleged discrimination AutoZone subjected Frank Mahoney Burroughs, an employee who had converted to the Sikh religion, to harassment and refused to accommodate his religious need to wear a turban. As long as wearing the turban would not affect his work performance, a reasonable accommodation needed to be made.

Details of the lawsuit include AutoZone managers harassing Burroughs by disparaging his religion, and asking if he had joined Al-Qaeda. Those type of comments are well over the line and inappropriate. They also asked if he was a terrorist. It even got worse for Burroughs as customers would refer to him as Bin Laden and made terrorist jokes. It must have been very hard to go to work every day under this type of pressure. The last straw was when AutoZone terminated him because of his religion and in retaliation for asking for an accommodation and complaining about discrimination.

“It is plainly unlawful as well as cruel and counter-productive to harass employees or co-workers because of their religion,” said EEOC attorney Elizabeth Grossman.
March 7, 2012

Rugo Stone LLC Settles A Discrimination Lawsuit For $40,000

Rugo Stone, LLC, pays $40,000 to settle a national origin discrimination, religious discrimination and color discrimination lawsuit. The multi-count discrimination lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Shazad Buksh. According to published accounts Buksh was an estimator and assistant project manager for Rugo Stone, and was subjected to derogatory comments from his supervisors, project manager and the company’s owner. All of these discriminatory comments were based on his national origin which was Pakistani, his religion which was Islam, and color which was brown.

The comments occurred daily and included things like Buksh being called a “Paki-princess” and told he was the same color as human feces. This type of activity at work is well beyond the accepted standards of decency. Can you imagine coming into work each day and listening to these comments . Buksh was told that his religion was “f---ing backwards,” and “f---ing crazy." He complained to management but nothing was done to stop the discrimination. I am glad the EEOC made the company pay up and stop this type of behavior.

“Employers must remember that federal law prohibits harassment based on national origin, religion and color,” said EEOC Attorney Lynette A. Barnes.
February 20, 2012

Convergys Customer Management Group Settles Discrimination Lawsuit

Convergys Customer Management Group pays $15,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Shannon Fantroy. According to published accounts Convergys violated federal law by refusing to hire Fantroy who was a call center job applicant because he could not work on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs.

This all started when Fantroy answered an online advertisement for a customer service position at Convergys’s call center. Fantroy’s religious beliefs as a Hebrew Israelite require him to observe the Sabbath from sunup until sundown on Saturday. Under the law the company must at least try and work with Fantroy to find a reasonable accommodation for the beliefs of Fantroy. A recruiter for Convergys interviewed Fantroy and told him that he would have to work weekends even though Fantroy told him about his religious beliefs and need for weekends off. The recruiter then told Fantroy that the interview was over unless he could work Saturdays.

“Mr. Fantroy never had a chance to discuss accommodation options because the recruiter simply cut him off once he stated that because of his religious beliefs he could not work on Saturday,” said EEOC attorney Barbara A. Seely.
January 8, 2012

Being Discriminated Because Of Religion In Chicago

My Chicago offices gets emails and visits from people who are the victims of religious discrimination at work. So what exactly is discrimination based on religion? You can't be treated different at work based on your religious beliefs. And the employer must make changes to the schedule that don't create a hardship on the business if your religion requires it. So if you can't work on a certain day because of your religious beliefs and it doesn't create a burden on your employer he must give you that day off. If this doesn't happen and your employer continues to treat you this way, you are in a hostile work environment and you have a right to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The IDHR will investigate the complaint and gather documents from your employer.

If the IDHR finds that you are in fact being discriminated against you will have a right to file a complaint directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC"). The actual procedure is the IDHR sending you a letter stating that they found substantial evidence and you now have 90 days to file your complaint with the IHRC. This is where the actual trial will take place and you will have an opportunity to confront your employer and his witnesses. The trial will take place in front of an administrative law judge and the remedies available to you include, back wages, future wages, money for medical care, lost benefits, attorney fees and money for emotional distress. You can also ask for your job back. All of this puts pressure on the other side and the chances of settlement if you have a decent case are good. Don't let your employer discriminate against you because of your religious beliefs.

December 13, 2011

Should I File At The Illinois Human Rights Commission Or Circuit Court?

My Chicago office has many cases of discrimination at the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). The discrimination case may involve sexual harassment, gender discrimination, religion, sexual orientation to name just a few. So what happens after the IDHR investigator finds substantial evidence of the discrimination? Well there are several options at that point. We could file a complaint directly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("IHRC") or you can file a complaint in the local circuit court where the discrimination occurred. So which venue should you file your sexual harassment complaint or other discrimination complaint?

The answer for most cases is the IHRC. One major factor in filing with the IHRC is the cost. There is no cost in filing at the IHRC. Additionally, in my opinion the case will work its' way to trial at a faster pace than filing in the local circuit court. The downside in filing at the IHRC is you can't have a jury trial. All cases filed at the IHRC are heard by an administrative law judge. Remember the goal of any case is to get money in your pocket. Having a good negotiator on your side maximizing your settlement is key.

November 27, 2011

EEOC Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit With Imperial Security Inc. For $50,000

Imperial Security, Inc. agreed to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit for $50,000. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Julie Holloway-Russell. According to published accounts Imperial refused to accommodate the religious beliefs of Russell, who is Muslim. In fact to make matters worse they actually terminated her. This type of activity is also known as retaliation because she complained about being discriminated against.

Russell wore a khimar, which is a religious garb which covers her hair, ears, and neck, as required by her religious beliefs. She wore this when she interviewed for the job of security guard so the company was well aware that she wore this daily. The problem started when she reported to her first work assignment wearing her khima and was told to remove it. She refused to do so because her religious beliefs mandated that she wear the religious head covering. She was terminated at that point.

“The 21st century workplace is increasingly diverse and the resolution of this lawsuit should remind all companies of their legal obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s religious beliefs.”said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr.
September 21, 2011

Lowe's Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit For $120,000

Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc. pays $120,000 to settle a religious discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") after Lowes refused to reasonably accommodate the sincerely held religious belief of an employee. Under the law a company must allow for a reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs that are true and honest.

In this case the worker requested being excused from working on the Christian Sabbath. This doesn't sound like a big deal and the company should have just allowed the man the day off. Instead the company retaliated against him when it scheduled him to work on the Sabbath for 27 out of 28 weeks. Try explaining that one to St. Peter at the gate.

"This settlement ensures that this employee will continue to receive the accommodation he should have been granted to begin with, and that managers and human resource personnel understand heir obligations under the law,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams.
August 24, 2011

Premier Well Services LLC Pays $30,000 To Settle Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

Premier Well Services, LLC, pays $30,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") because the company refused to hire an applicant because of his religious beliefs. It is illegal for a company to ask about a persons religious beliefs or to take any type of negative action based on religion.

Premier Well denied that it engaged in any type of discrimination and claims it only settled the case to put the matter behind them. This type of excuse is often used and in my opinion paying $30,000 is more than just putting the case behind them. There must have been more to it than just an allegation.

“Because of the economy, job applicants face many obstacles in finding employment,” EEOC Attorney Faye Williams.
April 18, 2011

Douglas County Settles Religious Discrimination and Sexual Orientation Lawsuit For $145,000

Douglas County pays $145,000 to settle a sexual orientation and religious discrimination lawsuit to Kathy Slater who worked for the county as a records clerk. In her lawsuit Slater alleged she was terminated after she refused to accept domestic partnership declarations and other documents from same-sex couples. Slater asked to be exempted from the duty, based on her religious beliefs saying she was a christian and believed same-sex partners were sinners.

The problem was Douglas County Clerk Barbara Neilson rejected the accommodation, and claimed exempting Slater would impose an undue hardship on clerk’s office staffing and operations. During discovery a memo surfaces that also indicated that Neilson believed the county could be subjected to civil rights lawsuits if she allowed the acoommodation. The Judge did not buy that argument and denied the County's motion for summary judgment and therefore the case was headed for trial. The Judge pointed out that the applications take a very short period of time to process and it was not unrealistic to just call over another clerk to process the applications of same-sex couples.

“So long as the registration is processed in a timely fashion, the registrants have suffered no injury,” Judge Coffin said. “There is no reason to even inform them of Ms. Slater’s religious views or the county’s accommodation of those beliefs.”
March 17, 2011

Belk Pays $55,000 To Settle a Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

Belk, Inc.pays $55,000 to settle a religious discrimin­ation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Myra Jones-Abid. According to published reports Belk failed to accommodate Jones-Abid's religious beliefs and then fired her because of her religion. The problem started when Belk required Jones-Abid to wear a Santa hat and apron as part of the stores attempt to make store look holiday friendly. Jones-Abid’s religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses, prohibits her from recognizing holidays, and therefore she declined to wear the holiday garb.

Belk terminated Jones-Abid for refusing to wear the apparel. It would not have been too large a burden on the company to allow her to not wear the Santa hat and apron. The company must respect a person's religious beliefs and there was not a legitimate reason for the company to act the way it did. Hopefully in the future, the company will change its policy.

"No employee should be forced to choose between her faith and her job,” said EEOC attorney Lynette A. Barnes.
January 25, 2011

United Bank Sued For Hostile Work Environment

Kathy Williams filed a lawsuit against her former employer, United Bank, claiming she was subjected to a hostile work environment. The basis for her lawsuit is that the co-pastor of the church who also worked with her at United Bank treated church members different than non-church members. Williams alleges she and Sammons, who was the co-pastor at the church, often discussed church business at work. Sammons described the other bank employees who also attended the church as protected employees.

The trouble started in May 2009 when Williams quit attending services at the church and in October 2009 she withdrew her membership at the church. Within a very short period of time after withdrawing her membership she was terminated. She is claiming religious discrimination based on her quitting church and then being fired. Prior to being fired, Williams complained to management but nothing was done to correct the hostile work environment.

Williams alleges Sammons said that she was "no longer protected."
January 9, 2011

Women Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit For $110,000

Testing company Measurement Inc. pays $110,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Jacqueline Dukes. According to published accounts Measurement Inc. discriminated against Jacqueline Dukes when it fired her for refusing to work on her Sabbath. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants because of their religion. Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate individuals as long as it does not create an undue hardship on the employer.

Dukes is a member of a Christian denomination called Children of Yisrael which prohibits its members from working on the Sabbath, from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday. The EEOC enforces federal law when it comes to employment issues related to discrimination. In this case, the employer could have made a reasonable accomodation for Dukes and this would have saved the company a great deal of money. The EEOC could have filed an additional charge of retaliation against the company for firing Dukes. Many times EEOC complaints will have multiple counts and allegations.

"Some employers still need to be educated that they are required by law to explore reasonable accommodations to solve situations like this,” said EEOC attorney Lynette A. Barnes.
December 1, 2010

LAZ Parking Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit With EEOC For $46,000

LAZ Parking pays $46,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of a Muslim woman. According to accounts with have been published LAZ Parking unlawfully subjected a practicing Muslim woman to discrimination when it terminated her because of her religious beliefs and refusing to remove her head covering (hijab).

This type of activity is taking place more and more and there has been a real increase in religious and national origin discrimination. Both of these types of discrimination cause a hostile work environment for employees.

“LAZ Parking worked diligently with the parties in this case to come to a speedy resolution,” said EEOC attorney Robert Dawkins. “Going forward, we believe LAZ Parking is sincerely committed to avoiding these types of problems.”
November 20, 2010

One Communications Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit For $66,000

One Communications Corp. will pay $66,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The lawsuit was filed after first trying to reach a settlement in the case. According to published accounts, the vice president of sales regularly subjected account executives Collin Buten, Alan Gordon and Marc Reinstein to harassment because of their religion, Judaism, at the company’s facility in Conshohocken, Pa.

The three employees complained to management about the discrimination, which included anti-Semitic remarks, but the company failed to take effective remedial measures to stop the offensive conduct. The religious harassment was so intolerable that Gordon was forced to quit, which is considered a constructive discharge.

“Unfortunately, the number of religious discrimination charges filed with the EEOC has increased dramatically over the last decade,” said District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. of the EEOC.
September 25, 2010

T.A. Loving Company Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit For $47,500

T.A. Loving Company settles a religious discrimination lawsuit for $47,500. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Elvis Cifuentes and two other workers. The men worked as laborers and were fired for refusing to work on their Sabbath. Cifuentes Angel and the other laborers are members of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith, which prohibits work on a member’s Sabbath, which runs from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday.

Companies need to make reasonable accomodations for workers and if they don't it will cost them time and money. As you can see, in the end the company had to pay and what was the point. Workers have many rights and they need to exercise them when they believe they are the victim of discrimination.

“Employers must respect employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs and carefully consider requests made by employees based on those beliefs,” said EEOC attorney Lynette A. Barnes.
September 15, 2010

Hospital Worker Gets $50,000 To Settle Retaliation and Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

A San Juan hospital pays $50,000 to settle a religious discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Javier Gonzalez-Torres. According to published accounts of the lawsuit, Torres claims the hospital failed to accomodate his religious beliefs. Torres worked at the hospital as a registered nurse and told the hospital that he could not cut his hair because of his religion, Santeria.

The hospital refused to allow him to wear his hair long, even though the hospital has a policy allowing female employees to wear their hair any length. If that weren't bad enough the hospital retaliated against Gonzalez-Torres by firing him after he complained about the discrimination. There seem to more be men filing discrimination charges with the EEOC. I don't know why the hospital would have a problem letting a man have the same length of hair a women does.

“Employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices, and there is no gender distinction for that,” said EEOC Attorney Michael O’Brien.
September 1, 2010

Abercrombie & Fitch Sued For Religious Discrimination

Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, Co. violated federal law when it refused to hire a Muslim job applicant because she wore a hijab (religious head scarf), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charged in a religious discrimination lawsuit filed today.

In March 2008, the 18-year-old female applied for a job stocking merchandise at the “Abercrombie Kids” store at the Great Mall in Milpitas, Calif. In accordance with her religious beliefs, she wore a colorful headscarf to her interview. According to the EEOC, the Abercrombie & Fitch manager asked if she was Muslim and required to wear a head scarf, then marked “not Abercrombie look” on the young woman’s interview form. The EEOC’s suit alleges that Abercrombie & Fitch refused to accommodate the applicant’s religious beliefs by granting an exception to its “Look Policy,” an internal dress code that includes a prohibition against head coverings.

“This was the first job I ever applied for, and I was excited about the idea of working for Abercrombie & Fitch,” said the job applicant. “I was into fashion, and wore skinny jeans and imported scarves that matched my outfits. The interview crushed me because I never imagined anyone in the Bay Area would reject me because of my head scarf. To this day, I can't walk into Abercrombie & Fitch stores. They didn't just miss out on a hard worker, they lost a customer.”
July 26, 2010

Religious Discrimination Lawsuit With Marriott Hotel Settled For $40,000

The Louisville Marriott Downtown Hotel pays $40,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Published reports indicate the company failed to provide an accommdation to four Somali women of the Moslem faith by not allowing them to work while wearing their hijab which is their custom.

Laurie Young, regional attorney for the EEOC said, “Discrimination because of a person’s religion is illegal and will not be tolerated. While that should be clear by now to all employers, some of them sadly continue to ignore the law."
June 25, 2010

Oak Tree Inn Settles Discrimination Lawsuit For $75,000

Lodging Enterprises LLC of Arizona, which does business as Oak Tree Inn in Yuma, will pay $75,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). According to the lawuist Oak Tree Inn threatened employees with reprisals of reducing their hours or otherwise forced them to engage in a particular religious prayer ceremony in spite of their personal different religious views. The defendant, through its general manager, Carlos Paredes, derided certain religious beliefs of some of the employees, the EEOC said. He also attempted to impose his personal religious beliefs on employees. The unlawful discrimination created a hostile work environment and denied employees reasonable accommodation for their religious beliefs.

The lawsuit involved twelve employees and they will all share in the settlement amount. Theresa Hurtado was one of the employees and she was one of the driving forces behind filing the discrimination complaint with the EEOC. There seems to be more employers engaging in crazy conduct in the workplace. I believe some of this may have to do with the bad economy and a feeling that employees will put up with any behavior to keep their jobs. Good for these twelve employees.

EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said, “Employees have a right to their own religious beliefs or no religious beliefs. Employees should never be subjected unwillingly to a supervisor’s religious views."
May 30, 2010

Orkin Pest Control Getting Rid Of More Than Pests: Sued By EEOC For Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") filed a religious discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a Thomas Kokezas claiming he was discriminated against because he wasn't a certain religion and because of his age. Additionally the EEOC said Orkin engaged in retaliation against an applicant who complained to the company’s corporate headquarters about the alleged discrimination.

The age discrimination lawsuit claims Orkin discriminated during the hiring process against Thomas Kokezas, as well as a class of individuals based on their age, over 40, or religion, non-Mormon. The lawsuit alleges Orkin advertised on Craig’s List for a recruiter to assist in hiring LDS missionaries for seasonal employ­ment and stating that the summer position was great for returned missionaries, who tend to be in their 20s. Under the law such advertising is illegal because it shows a preference for a particular religion, and also a preference for younger workers.

“Employers must be vigilant in providing equal employment opportunities for all applicants regardless of their age or religion,” said EEOC Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill.
May 26, 2010

Two Transporation Companies Settle EEOC Retaliation Lawsuit For $50,000

Amino Transport, Inc. and Chariot Express, Inc. will pay $50,000 to settle a retaliation, religious and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Joshua Male. According to the lawsuit Male’s employer engaged in retaliation firing him because he had complained about workplace comments being made by two coworkers. The lawsuit also claims Male complained to the human resources ("HR") manager about persistent inappropriate jokes about Mormons, as well as workplace comments allegedly disparaging a pregnant female co-worker, women in general, and an African American.

The HR manager reported Male's complaints to the general manager of the facility, and Male was fired within less than 72 hours. This type of behavior is so obvious and it is amazing that companies still believe they can get away with treating people this way. It is nice to see people stand up for their rights and not let companies operate in this fashion.

“No one should lose his job for alerting human resources to inappropriate workplace behavior,” said EEOC attorney Jim Sacher.
May 24, 2010

Pollard Agency Pays $49,000 To Settle Regligious Discrimination Lawsuit

The Pollard Agency pays $49,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Marian Lawson. According to the lawsuit, Lawson worked as a security guard and was fired because she wore a head scarf. According to Lawson's religious belief as a Mennonite Baptist, she is required to wear the head scarf.

According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must make reasonable accomodations for peoples religious beliefs and practices. In this case it would not have been difficult to allow Lawson to wear her scarf. The inflexibility of employers to make reasonable requests, will result in monetary settlements.

“This early settlement benefits everyone involved, especially Ms. Lawson, who can now put this episode behind her,” said Robert Dawkins, EEOC attorney.
May 20, 2010

Guard Awarded $49,000 In Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

The Pollard Agency pays $49,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was field by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Marian Lawson. According to the lawsuit the Pollard Agency discriminated against security guard Lawson by firing her rather than accommodating her religious practice. As part of her Memmonite Baptist religion she wore a head scarf.

It is amazing that a company would risk a lawsuit over something so small and petty. I am glad to see this woman stand up for herself and demand her rights. Hopefully, the company will learn a valuable lesson and not behave this way in the future. In Illinois, I see many companies act this way.

“The EEOC is pleased that Pollard chose to resolve the matter early and to take steps to ensure similar problems do not occur in the future.” said Robert Dawkins of the EEOC

April 23, 2010

Construction Company Pays $122,500 To Settle National Origin, Racial and Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

Pace Services a construction company pays $122,500 to settle a national origin, racial discrimination and religious discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit wasa filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Mohammad Kaleemuddin who is of the Islamic faith and East Indian descent. The lawsuit also included 13 other employees because they were black or Hispanic.

According to the allegations in the lawsuit a Pace supervisor referred to Kaleemuddin as “terrorist,” “Taliban,” “Osama” and “Al-Qaeda.” Kaleemuddin complained to superiors about the harassment but nothing was done to stop it. Finally, Kaleemuddin was fired by the supervisor who was harassing him. Allegedly the same supervisor, as well as others in Pace management, regularly referred to African Americans as “n----s” and to Hispanics as “f-----g Mexicans.”

EEOC Attorney Jim Sacher said, “Employees have an absolute right to be free from discriminatory harassment in the workplace. The EEOC will vigorously challenge violations of this statutory right.”
March 25, 2010

Worker Fired For Not Wearing Red Shirt Gets $21,500

Alliance Rental Center will pay $21,500 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of a former worker, Tyler Templeton who was fired because he would not wear a red shirt on Friday to show his support for the military. According to the lawsuit Templeton who is a Jehovah's Witness, said it was against his religious beliefs and his observance of neutrality on issues of war to go along with wearing the red shirt.

Templeton informed his supervisors about his religious beliefs and his observance of neutrality on issues of war, including military efforts, but was reprimanded for not complying with the Friday dress code. It would not have taken much for the company to respect the religious beliefs of Templeton and tell him it was okay not to wear the red shirt. The company is in business to make money not to tell people what they should support. Templeton was fired shortly after he refused to wear the red shirt. Firing him is regarded as retaliation.

“This is a positive outcome for all parties involved, and it is our hope that the company will be successful going forward as a result of the changes called for in this settlement agreement,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Meaghan Shepard.


March 22, 2010

Administaff Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit For $115,000

Administaff, Inc. will pay $115,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Scott Jacobson and Joey Jacobson. The two brothers were called slurs by managers and coworkers because of their religion, Judaism. The harassment consisted of defacing Scott Jacobson’s work vehicle with a swastika symbol and putting the brothers in a trash bin.

This type of behavior may seem childish and may have been motivated by a herd mentality but it is illegal and dangerous. It is too bad that people have to be so cruel and malicious toward their fellow workers. The real troubling portion of this case is that management took part in the harassment.

“What happened to these workers was cruel and callous, involving physical mistreatment, as well as hateful religious slurs and anti-Semitic symbols” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru.
February 20, 2010

UPS Settles EEOC Lawsuit For $46,000

UPS Freight agreed to pay $46,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of a Rastafarian. This is a very unique set of circumstances because the religion is one not considered mainstream. According to the lawsuit UPS refused to accommodate the Rastafarian religious beliefs of Nieland Bynoe. As long as the religious beliefs are sincere and a reasonable accomodation is available, the company must make the accomodation or risk liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An example of a reasonable accomodation is if a religion does not allow its members to work on a certain day, say Sunday and giving Sunday off to an employee did not create a hardship for the employer, the employer must give the worker Sunday off.

In this case instead of making the reasonable accomondation UPS fired him. During new hire orientation as a driver for UPS management told Bynoe he had to shave his beard and cut his hair in accordance with the company’s grooming policy. Bynoe replied that his religious beliefs prohibit him from cutting his hair or shaving his beard. Bynoe again advised the human resources manager about his religious beliefs and asked for a reasonable accommodation on the following day but UPS fired him. This is also a form of retaliation because Bynoe asked not to be discriminated against and he was fired.

“Our freedom to practice our religious beliefs is a fundamental right in this country,” said Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC
February 19, 2010

EEOC Complaints Can Be Faxed

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") can be faxed instead of filed in person or through the mail. If you have a charge of discrimination, whether based on gender, race, religion or sexual harassment you have to file the charge within 180 with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") or 300 days with the EEOC. The IDHR has always allowed for complaints to be filed by fax but the EEOC never recognized fax filings. In Laouini v. CLM Freight Lines, Inc. the Seventh Circuit held that a receipt showing a fax was sent to the EEOC is sufficient to prove the date of filing.

It is always very important to remember that there are very strict time limits to filing a charge of discrimination. You must not procrastonate and let too much time slip away. In some instances an employer may drag out the internal investigation so that by the time you receive the internal findings of the company, more than 180 days has passed and you can't file a charge with the IDHR.

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February 4, 2010

Retaliation and Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Settled For $25,000

Anthony Kerr, a Muslim settled his retaliation and religious discrimination lawsuit against New Community Corporation for $25,000. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Kerr. According to detail of the lawsuit, New Community Corporation would not grant Kerr a reasonable accommodation when he requested that he be excused from a requirement that employees donate money to a Catholic school. His employer requested the donations because they are part of a Catholic parish. However Kerr's religious beliefs as a Muslim are different than the school’s religious mission which is based on the Catholic religion.

Based on court documents after Kerr refused to give a donation and complained that the demand for a donation conflicted with his religious beliefs, New Community Corporation removed him from its work schedule, which is retaliation. Retaliation occurs when you complain of discriminatory conduct and you receive negative treatment as a result of the complaint. Kerr ultimately filed a complaint with the EEOC and the corporation retaliated against him when he did file with the EEOC by firing him and then filing an improper complaint about him with his full-time employer alleging that he had engaged in misconduct at New Community Corporation.

“The EEOC will vigorously enforce the law to end such discriminatory practices. An employer, even one that engages in charitable work, cannot subject an employee to religious discrimination or retaliation.” said EEOC Attorney Louis Graziano


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January 31, 2010

Ivy Hall Assisted Living Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit For $43,000

Ivy Hall Assisted Living, LLC agreed to pay $43,000 and other non-monetary relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Khadija Ahdaoui a Muslin employed by Ivy Hall. According to details in the lawsuit Ivy Hall discriminated against Ahdaoui in her housekeeping job by firing her rather than accommodating her religious belief that she wear a Muslim head scarf ("hijab").

Court documents claim Ivy Hall insisted that as a condition of her continued employment, Ahdaoui remove and refrain from wearing her hijab on the job. When she refused, she was terminated. What is alleged is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires that employers make an effort to accommodate employees’ and applicants’ sincerely held religious beliefs. The accommodation is this case was very minor and Ivy Halls response to the accommodation was insensitive.

“Title VII protects employees from having to make the choice Ms. Ahdaoui was forced to make between her religious beliefs and her employment,” said Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

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January 4, 2010

Mesaba Airlines Flying Low After Paying $130,000 To Settle Discrimination Lawsuit

Mesaba Airlines settled a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of five individuals. The EEOC alleged in the lawsuit that Mesaba Airlines violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it terminated a Jewish customer service agent because she refused to work on the Jewish Sabbath. Four Christian applicants who applied for employment were allegedly rejected during interviews because they stated a desire for weekend shifts that would not conflict with Sunday church services.

Mesaba Airlines had a policy whereby employees could not request a shift change even if they made arranagements with other employees and made the arrangements well in advanace of the schedule change. The no shift swap policy conflicted with Title VII, which requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee whose religious belief conflicts with a work requirement. This only except is if the accommodation creates an undue hardship on the employer. As a result of this lawsuit Mesaba Airlines no longer has the policy. The EEOC claimed the policy was a form of discrimination.

“Employees should not be forced to choose between practicing their faith and keeping or getting a job,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “As this suit shows, the EEOC vigorously enforces Title VII’s protection against religious discrimination.”


November 20, 2009

University of Nebraska Woman Fired For Being A Witch Turns Broom on School and Receives $40,000

A woman, named Jane Doe to protect her identity, sued the University of Nebraska alleging she was fired because she is a witch. In her religious discrimination lawsuit she alleges she was hired directing the youth program and did her job satisfactory but an associate dean terminated her after learning she was a witch. The University agreed to settle the lawsuit for $40,000 without admitting liability. This type of discrimination violates an employees constitutional rights.

The case was fired filed with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission ("NEOC") which is similar in Illinois to the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"). Jane Doe alleged the University of Nebraska violated her free speech and freedom of expression rights as well as her freedom to practice the religion of her choice. The NEOC found reasonable cause to believe religious discrimination had taken place in this case.


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November 2, 2009

Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Filed by Wiccan

Gina Uberti a Wiccan, says she worked for Bath and Body Works for 8 years, and for 6 years had been allowed to make the annual trip in October celebrate the Wiccan holiday of Samhain.
Uberti says she was granted her request to take vacation the week of Oct. 31, 2008 by her boss at the time, regional manager Scott Kerby. But Kerby was replaced by Sandra Scibelli, whom Bath and Body Works hired in 2008, according to the complaint. Uberti was fired in November 2008 and as a result filed a religious discrimination lawsuit and is seeking lost wages and punitive damages.

According to the lawsuit many Wiccans go to Salem, Mass. to celebrate their new year, which begins at sundown on Oct. 31. In the lawsuit Uberti says Scibelli told her that she should get her priorities straight.

Ubertia the self proclaimed Wiccan claims her boss told her, "You will need a new career in your new year. ... I will be damned if I have a devil-worshipper on my team."

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September 21, 2009

EEOC Report Shows Increase in Discrimination Lawsuits

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") released its' report for 2008 and it shwos there were 16,752 complaints alleging employment discrimination– up 2.4 percent from the prior year. These complaints are allegations against government agencies only and do not include complaints against private companies. The complaints were filed against federal agencies on the basis of retaliation, gender, race, national origin, religion and age.

Other interesting statistics in the report include of 7,538 cases closed on the merits, 2.5% resulted in findings of unlawful discrimination. Both parties entered into settlements in 19.5 % or 3,249 complaints. Agencies awarded a total of over $50 million in monetary benefits to complainants for unlawful discrimination.

“Federal agencies must step up their efforts to improve complaint processing time, while also focusing on quality results,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “

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September 18, 2009

New Illinois Law Takes Affect January 1, 2010 Adding Additional Discrimination Protections

The Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA") also known as, 775 ILCS 5/1-101 will now offer protection to individuals who have an order of protection. Starting at the first of the year it will be considered unlawful discrimination, based on order of protection status, to take any negative job action on an individual if they have an order of protection and there is no legitimate business reason for the negative job action.

This new law adds order of protection status to the current protected classifications of religion, age, race, national origin, gender, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, military status, and unfavorable discharge from military service. The initial charge would be filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights in either Chicago or Springfield.

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September 15, 2009

Appeals Court Upholds $241,708 National Origin Verdict

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a jury verdict int he amount of $241,708 for plaintiff Youssef Bouamama against Go Daddy Software Inc. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of Bouamama, a Muslim of Moroccan national origin who speaks Arabic and claimed Go Daddy Software Inc. had engaged in retaliation against Bouamama when it fired him for complaining about religious and national origin discrimination.

In the underlining lawsuit, the jury found in favor of Bouamama and said that Go Daddy Software Inc. terminated Bouamama, for complaining about religious discrimination and national origin discrimination. After 9-11, there has been a rise in the number of complaints and lawsuit filed based on national origin. Muslims seem to be the latest group to be subjected to this type of discriminatory conduct.

“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit has affirmed the jury’s finding of retaliation,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office.

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August 4, 2009

AT&T Pays $1.3 Million In Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

A jury of nine women and three men awarded the two former AT & T employees, Jose Gonzalez and Glenn Owen (brothers-in-law), $296,000 in back pay and $460,000 in compensatory damages under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act based on discrimination. During the four-day trial, the jury heard evidence that both men had submitted written requests to their manager in January 2005 for one day of leave to attend a religious observance that was scheduled for Friday July 15 to Sunday July 17, 2005. Both men testified that they had sincerely held religious beliefs that required them to attend the Jehovah’s Witness convention each year. Both men had attended the convention every year throughout their employment with AT&T. Gonzalez worked at the company for more than eight years and Owen was employed there for nearly six years.

The case was tried in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Jonesboro Division (Case No. 3:06-cv-00176), before Judge Leon Holmes. AT&T appealed the jury verdict to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Eighth Circuit sided with the EEOC and upheld the jury verdict. The amount awarded by the jury at trial grew to $1,307,597 with the inclusion of interest and front pay. Judge Holmes granted the EEOC’s request for an injunction prohibiting AT&T from engaging in any employment practice which discriminates on the basis of religion.

“These two employees never should have had to choose between their jobs and their sincerely held religious beliefs,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “With increased religious diversity in the workplace, employers need to be extra vigilant in guarding against discrimination based on religion.”

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