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PRESS RELEASE
9-25-17

Georgia Blue Sued By EEOC For Rescinding Job Offer To Employee Who Needed Religious Accommodation

Female Employee Not Permitted to Wear Skirt Instead of Pants, Federal Agency Charges

JACKSON, Miss. - Georgia Blue, LLC, a chain of restaurants specializing in a blend of Southern and Creole foods in Flowood, Madison, Hattiesburg, and Brookhaven, Miss., violated federal law by rescinding a job offer to a female employee who requested to wear a skirt instead of pants in accordance with her religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's suit, in October 2015 Georgia Blue selected Kaetoya Watkins to work as a restaurant server. Georgia Blue has a dress code requiring servers to wear blue jeans. Watkins notified Georgia Blue of her Apostolic Pentecostal religious belief that women should wear only skirts or dresses and requested the reasonable accommodation of wearing a blue skirt. According to the EEOC, Georgia Blue denied the accommodation, advising Watkins that "the owner" would "not stray away from" the company dress code.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodations to employees. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 3:17-cv-00777-TSL-LRA in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Georgia Blue from discriminating against employees who need religious accommodations, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for Watkins.

"Most religious accommodations are not burdensome, such as allowing an employee to wear a skirt instead of pants," said EEOC Birmingham Regional Attorney Marsha L. Rucker, whose jurisdiction includes Mississippi. "It would have been simple to allow Ms. Watkins to wear a long skirt at work. No worker should be obligated to choose between making a living and following her religious convictions."

Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC's Birmingham District Office, said, "Under federal law, employers have a duty to provide an accommodation to allow an employee to practice his or her religion when the employer can do so without undue hardship on the operation of the company. This case shows the EEOC is committed to combatting religious discrimination in the workplace."

The EEOC's Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction over Alabama, Mississippi (all but 17 counties in the northern part of Mississippi), and the Florida Panhandle.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.