Imperial Security, Inc., a Philadelphia security firm, recently signed a consent decree with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to settle a case involving discrimination against a Muslim worker.
Imperial Security hired Julie Holloway-Russell, a Muslim who wore a khimar headscarf covering her hair, ears, and neck to her job interview to become one of the company’s security guards. After landing the job, Ms. Holloway-Russell wore the khimar when reporting for her first work assignment. She was told to remove the khimar because the company’s dress code required all employees to wear a white shirt, tie, black pants, a black belt, black socks, and black shoes, and it forbade additions to the uniform for any reason, including religion. Ms. Holloway-Russell was offered a company-approved baseball hat to wear in lieu of her khimar, but she refused to remove her khimar. She was then terminated.
Employers Must Accommodate Religious Beliefs
Imperial Security will pay $50,000 under the consent decree, designate an EEO officer who will receive complaints of discrimination or retaliation, revise its employee handbook to permit accommodation of religious beliefs, and establish a procedure for handling discrimination complaints and a disciplinary policy for any employee who engages in discriminatory or retaliatory behavior.
The Imperial Security case comes on the heels of a case resolved last summer against Abercrombie & Fitch. In that case, a young Muslim woman interviewed to become an Abercrombie sales associate but was denied employment because she wore a khimar to her job interview and “did not comply with their looks policy,” says Natasha Abel, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s Philadelphia district office.
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