Human Resources News & Insights

National origin, religious bias cases still rank high on EEOC agenda

National origin and religion are highly sensitive topics in American culture and politics these days. And the workplace is no exception — check out these two recent cases from the EEOC.  

The first case involves KASCO LLC, a St. Louis company which manufactures and sells butcher supplies and meat processing equipment. KASCO, charged by the EEOC with retaliation and discrimination based on national origin and religion, has agreed to pay $110,000 and furnish other relief to settle the lawsuit.

Details of the case: The agency filed suit against the company in August 2016, charging that KASCO had violated federal law by discriminating against an employee, Latifa Sidiqi, because of her adherence to Islam and her Afghan descent, and then firing her for complaining about it.

When Sidiqi was written up for a job performance issue — an admonition she thought unjustified — during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, she submitted a written rebuttal to Human Resources, pursuant to company policy. In that rebuttal, she wrote that the write-up had “everything to do with [her] coming from a Muslim background.” Within three weeks of this rebuttal, Sidiqi was terminated for allegedly “falsifying time records.”

Sidiqi claimed, and the EEOC agreed, that this “time record” issue was pretextual, since other employees used “flex time” in the same manner Sidiqi did, but only she was fired for it.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis after first attempting to reach a settlement with the employer.

In addition to the $110,000 in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree signed by Judge Rodney W. Sippel enjoins KASCO from violating Title VII in the future. KASCO also agreed to revise its anti-discrimination policies, and to provide annual anti-discrimination training to supervisory or management-level employees. The company will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.

Refused to work on the Sabbath

In another religious bias case, J.C. Witherspoon, Jr. Inc., a South Carolina corporation, violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a truck driver’s religious beliefs and fired him because of his religion, according to a recent EEOC lawsuit.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Leroy Lawson has been a Hebrew Pentecostal for approx­imately 35 years. As a Hebrew Pentecostal, he holds the religious belief that he must not engage in labor during the Biblical Sabbath, which, in Lawson’s faith, begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.

In March 2012, Lawson was hired as a truck driver. During a pre-hire interview, Lawson informed the truck supervisor and foreman that he observed the Sabbath on Saturdays, and would need an accommodation of not working on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs. In or around April 2012, just weeks after Lawson’s hire, all drivers were required to work on a Saturday, the EEOC said. Although Lawson worked that day, at the end of the day Lawson told the foreman he would not work on a Saturday, his Sabbath, ever again because of his religious beliefs. The company did not require Lawson to work on a Saturday again until about a year later.

On December 27, 2013, Lawson was notified that he would have to work the next day, a Saturday. Lawson refused.  The EEOC alleges that when the owner of the company learned that Lawson refused to work on Saturdays, Lawson was fired.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, charging religious discrimination. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

We’ll keep you posted.


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