Bus Company Denied a Religious Accommodation and Constructively Discharged Muslim Woman Who Sought to Drive in Religious Clothing, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE – Greyhound Lines Inc., the nation’s largest intercity bus common carrier, will pay $45,000, train its human resources managers and hiring officials on religious accommodations and furnish other significant relief to settle a federal religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, a Muslim woman whose religious practice included wearing an abaya while in public applied to be a driver in Greyhound’s training program. An abaya is a loose-fitting ankle-length over-garment that conceals the outline of the wearer’s body and its purpose is to protect the female wearer’s modesty. During Greyhound’s job interview with the applicant, she asked if she could wear the abaya, and was told that the abaya would not be a problem. Greyhound then accepted the applicant into its training program, and at that time, notified her that she could not wear the abaya. Greyhound advised that she would have to wear its uniform, with slight modifications, but positively rejected the abaya. Greyhound said it believed that this accommodation was sufficient because it was accepted by another Muslim employee. The applicant could not accept Greyhound’s proposed accommodation and withdrew from the training program.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (EEOC v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-01651-ELH), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $45,000 in monetary relief to the applicant, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Greyhound’s officers and management employees with supervisory responsibility from discriminating based on religion. Greyhound will provide training on religious accommodations that addresses the importance of interactive communication and flexibility in discussing potential solutions that resolve the conflict between a genuinely held religious belief and some aspect of an individual’s employment. The company will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any religious accommodation requests and post a notice regarding the settlement.
“The EEOC is gratified that Greyhound worked with us to reach an amicable settlement which compensates the applicant and ensures that no employees or applicants are discriminated against based on religion,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “Our right to exercise our religious beliefs is one of our most precious freedoms. This settlement should send a strong message to all employers about the need to provide a religious accommodation. Most religious accommodations can be done easily and without incurring an undue hardship.”
The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.