According to the EEOC, the number of workplace religious discrimination charges is continuing to rise. In a recent case filed by the EEOC, a St. Louis company was alleged to have discriminated and retaliated against a Muslim employee because of her adherence to Islam and her Afghan ancestry and her complaints about mistreatment in the workplace.
Claims against KASCO
KASCO manufactures and sells meat processing equipment and butcher supplies. Latifa Sidiqi had been an employee of KASCO since 2008. She began having issues with her supervisor in 2012, who made derogatory comments about the fact that she was fasting during Ramadan and wearing a hijab. Sidiqi complained about the comments and was fired during Ramadan in 2013. The EEOC alleged that her termination was because of her religion and national origin, and because of the complaints she made about her supervisor's conduct.
Allegations of Title VII violations
The conduct the EEOC challenged on behalf of Sidiqi violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' sincerely held religious beliefs, as long as such accommodations do not pose an undue hardship on the employer.
Discrimination for wearing a hijab is common
Sidiqi's case is not uncommon, unfortunately. In another case here in Alabama, a certified nursing assistant at Shadescrest Healthcare facility in Jasper was denied her right to wear a hijab. A hijab is a veil or headscarf worn by Muslim women as a symbol of modesty. She complained about the refusal to accommodate her sincerely held religious belief and filed an EEOC charge. She was later fired, as she alleges, in retaliation for opposing religious discrimination in the workplace.
In yet another case against Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store, an applicant was denied employment because she wore a hijab to her interview. Abercrombie asserted the religious headscarf violated its strict dress code.
Title VII’s accommodation requirements
Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination statute, protects against more than just discrimination based on race or gender. Religious beliefs are also protected, and employers are required to accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs of its employees, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the employer's business. In other words, an employer is required to make reasonable adjustments in order to allow an employee to practice his or her religion.
When can an employer's decision-making be based on religion?
Although Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on religious affiliation or beliefs, there are a few specific situations where exceptions are allowed. A specifically defined “religious organization” or “religious educational institution” is generally exempt from certain religious discrimination provisions. Qualified religious organizations are allowed to act upon the preferences of members of their own religion, as long as that employer's “purpose and character are primarily religious.” Also, there is a “ministerial exception” that bars Title VII claims by employees who work in clergy roles.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.