EEOC Says Muslim Applicant Denied Hire Because of Hijab
BALTIMORE – An Ellicott City, Md., assisted living center will pay $25,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that Morningside House of Ellicott City denied hire to a Muslim job applicant because she refused to remove her hijab, a headscarf worn by Muslim women as a religious obligation.
In its suit, (1:11-cv-02766-JKB), filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, the EEOC said that the director of health and wellness asked Khadijah Salim if she would be willing to remove her hijab. The directorexpressed concerns that if she were hired, the hijab may interfere with her ability to work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Salim responded that she had worn her hijab throughout her nursing training, which included working in the operating room, and it had never interfered with her ability to perform her duties. Although she was told she would be contacted if someone were interested in her, she was never contacted, nor was she one of ten CNAs who were hired by the employer in September 2010.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers have an obligation to accommodate an employee’s or applicant’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless it creates an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief to Salim, the consent decree settling the suit enjoins the senior living home from further discriminating against any individual on the basis of religion; requires religious discrimination training to supervisors, managers and all involved in the hiring process; to post a notice stating the company’s commitment to maintaining an environment free of religious discrimination; and submit copies of any complaints about religious discrimination to the EEOC for a period of two years.
“In this case, there was no undue hardship to the employer -- just an apparent overreaction to a reasonable request because of myths and stereotypes about a religion,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
According to its website, www.morningsidehouse.com, “Morningside House has been proudly serving seniors and their families since 1992 and is considered the ‘top-referred’ assisted living and dementia care provider in the Baltimore / Washington area.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.