Thursday, August 5, 2010

Muslim Head Gear Ban Allowed by 3rd Circuit - Case of the Week #1

In EEOC v. Geo Group Inc., the Third Circuit held that a private contractor that runs prisons could ban Muslim head coverings, called khimars, under Title VII. The EEOC filed suit on behalf of a class of Muslim women who wore khimars and refused to comply with the company's dress code prohibiting hoods, hats, caps, scarves, etc.

First, a recap of a prima facie case of workplace religious discrimination:
(1) she holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with a job requirement;
(2) she informed her employer of the conflict; and
(3) she was disciplined for failing to comply with the conflicting requirement.
BUT the employer can then show that either:
[1] it made a good-faith effort to reasonably accommodate the religious belief, or
[2] such an accommodation would work an undue hardship upon the employer and its business.
The employer argued that granting an exception for the khimars would impose an undue hardship by compromising the prison's security and safety. Specifically, including that:
(1) khimars, like hats, could be used to smuggle contraband into and around the Hill Facility,
(2) that khimars can be used to conceal the identity of the wearer, which creates problems of misidentification, and
(3) that khimars could be used against a prison employee in an attack.
The Court agreed, affirmed summary judgment for the employer.

This case reaffirms the principle that workplace safety and security can trump religious accommodations. An important part of the Court's analysis, however, focused on prison administration and noted that "prison is not a summer camp." And chances are, your workplace is not a prison. So employers should by no means consider this a green light to ban head scarves.

Citation: E.E.O.C. v. Geo Group, Inc., 2010 WL 2991380 (3d Cir. Aug. 2, 2010).

Case of the Week is a weekly feature. On Fridays I will cover a particularly important, fun , or interesting employment law case. This is entry #1. All Case of the Weeks are tagged COTW.

Posted by Philip Miles, an employment lawyer with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania.

5 comments:

  1. APPROACHING TWO YEARS SINCE THE RULING OF THE AUG. 2,2010 EEOC VS GEO GROUP. I AM STILL BEING TORMENTED AND HAUNTED WITH THE REMINDERS OF THAT CASE. DISCRIMINATION STILL EXISTS AND IS MORE POWERFUL THAN EVER; BECAUSE MOST JUDICIAL SYSTEMS HAVE ALLOWED INJUSTICE TO BE DISGUISE AS JUSTICE AND EQUALITY; SADLEY, THESE UGLY FACES OF HATRED AND IGNORANCE NOW HAVE THE JUSTIFICATION AND SUPPORT FROM LAW MAKERS TO UNVEIL THEMSELVES WITHOUT FEAR OF PENALTY OR CONSEQUENCE.

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  2. Ms. Allen, not knowing the pain and hardship you have suffered due the pursuit of your heart felt religious calling but I am curious about your feelings about the employer's safety and security argument mentioned above? I believe that in this great country we live in that some of our rights are slowly being taken away from us and the masses are blind or ambiguous to this fact. But there has to be some lines drawn, case in point the freedom of speech is limited to the fighting men and women of this country (Military) due to there scarific, commitment, etc, but that was an except understanding of that occupation. This is an imperfect system and so many try to take advantage of that fact: wealthy paying less taxes than the middle working classes, slip and fall claims, people walking into the glass door of Apple Store and suing cause the door was too clean, cases against McDonlds for coffee being too hot, women opting to have more children and collecting unemployment due to the fact it pays better than actually working, illegal immigrants getting drivers licenses yet still not paying taxes, and the list goes on and on. So not attempting to lump you in as one whom is trying to get over, just want your thoughts on the security and safety issues raised from a common sense point of view, what is more important the needs of one or the safety of many?

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  3. I believe the employer's/employee's safety should trump, I want to feel safe at my workplace. My religious belief's start and matter the most in the heart, mind and soul - not public acceptance ...

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    1. Of course safety should triumph and people should feel safe at work and outside work. But there is no proof in that case where safety has been jepardized. This is a case where prejudice is being masked by safety issues. As I stated before, companies can now legally get away with discrimination and the rights from the constitution are being violated with exceptance.
      If you don't stand up for your belief, then what type of existence do you claim in this world?

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  4. I believe that the court erred by upholding an undue hardship being placed upon employer.
    (1) All prison employees are subject to search and are in fact randomly chosen daily to comply with security measures taken by the prison to ensure safety.
    (a) If full submission to established search procedures by prison from the three women entering and leaving was done it would not interfere with the normal practice of the prison or its policies.
    (b) the khimaar in fact can be used for smuggling contraband. Equal also, are underwear which conceals more. Hats that officers wear as a part of uniform. In fact, all items of clothing can be used for this purpose which is the intented purpose for having all employees subject to search.
    (c) The court also erred in upholding that the khimaar can be used as a weapon. Its material at its heaviest is sheer having the same affect as dress socks.
    Therefore, the standing of the three women in upholding their religious practice outweighs the ruling of the court since the prisons established security measured already dissallows for the security to be compromised

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