- Wednesday, 23 March 2011 08:00
Religious Discrimination Settlement Reached Over Santa Hat
By Matt O'Donnell
Myra Jones-Abid claimed in the religious discrimination lawsuit that she was fired from her job at a Belk department store in Raleigh, North Carolina in November 2008 for refusing to wear a Santa hat and apron because it conflicted with her religious beliefs. Recognizing holidays such as Christmas is prohibited by the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
In July 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Commission filed a lawsuit on Jones-Abid's behalf, claiming that the Southeast department store chain violated federal laws that require employers to make reasonable accommodations to address employees' religious beliefs.
"No employee should be forced to choose between her faith and her job," said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District, which includes the EEOC's Raleigh area office, where the charge was filed.
In addition to the financial payment, the religious discrimination settlement also requires Belk to take several additional measures, including providing annual training on religious discrimination to all managers and supervisors at the store where Jones-Abid worked; and posting a notice in the store on employees' rights under federal anti-discrimination laws. Belk must also make periodic reports to the EEOC on actions taken to accommodate employees who have requested religious accommodations.
The case serves as a reminder to all employees that their religious beliefs are protected under the law, as long as they do not interfere with their employer’s business operations. If you feel like you’ve been discriminated or retaliated against for making reasonable requests to have your religious beliefs accommodated, you should contact an employment lawyer in your area.