April 20, 2010

TWO RELIGIOUS GARB RULINGS FAVORING PLAINTIFFS

by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

The first ruling is Haqq v. Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, decided on March 23, 2010 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Haqq, a Muslim woman whose religious beliefs requires her to veil her body with the exception of hands and face was terminated for failure to pass a probationary period as a state welfare case worker. Haqq’s charges of religious discrimination in termination and retaliation survived summary judgment and a claim of religious harassment did not. Among other things, Haqq claimed that two of her trainers intentionally downgraded her performance, and that one of them made crude remarks about her garb. The retaliation claim is based on her allegation that she complained to her union representative, and that subsequently, she received poor ratings and was advised to resign. The ruling may be accessed here.

The second ruling is EEOC v. White Lodging Services Corp, decided on March 31, 2010 in the Western District of Kentucky. White Lodging Services manages the Marriot Downtown Hotel in Louisville, KY. The hotel has a policy of prohibiting employees from wearing hats unless it is part of the uniform. Four Somali Muslim women applied for housekeeping jobs and were waiting for an interview. A manager saw through a glass partition that the women were wearing headscarves and instructed his assistant manager to request the women to remove the headscarves. The women refused for religious reasons and were not interviewed. The EEOC issued a Title VII religious discrimination suit and the defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that the company was not an “employer” at the point of the interview and the manager was unaware that the head garb was worn for religious reasons. The district court judge rejected these arguments and ruled that the lawsuit may go forward. The ruling may be accessed here.

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