Laurinburg Companies Unlawfully Fired Pentecostal Employee for Refusing to Wear Pants, Federal Agency Charged
LAURINBURG, N.C. - Scottish Food Systems, Inc. and Laurinburg KFC Take Home, Inc. will pay $40,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. Scottish Food Systems and Laurinburg KFC Take Home are based in Laurinburg, N.C. and jointly operate a chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in North Carolina.
According to the EEOC's complaint, Sheila Silver converted to Pentecostalism in 2010. As a member of the Pentecostal church, Silver believes women cannot wear pants. In accordance with this religious belief, Silver has not worn pants since the fall of 2010. Silver has worked for various Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants since 1992. Scottish Food Systems and Laurinburg KFC Take Home purchased the KFC restaurant where Silver worked in Rocky Mount, N.C., in April 2013. The EEOC's complaint alleged that the companies informed Silver she must wear pants to work because of their dress code policy. According to the EEOC, Silver told Scottish Food Systems and Laurinburg KFC Take Home she could not wear pants because of her religious beliefs. However, the companies ultimately fired her for refusing to wear pants to work.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs as long as doing so would not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit on September 19, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Scottish Food Systems, Inc. and Laurinburg KFC Take Home, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:13-CV-00796) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary damages, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Scottish Food Systems and Laurinburg KFC Take Home to adopt a formal religious accommodation policy and to conduct an annual training program on the requirements of Title VII and its prohibition against religious discrimination. Scottish Food Systems and Laurinburg KFC Take Home will also post a copy of their anti-discrimination policy at all of their facilities.
"Employers must accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious belief when such an accommodation would not pose an undue hardship," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "This case demonstrates the EEOC's continued commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov