The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Puerto Rico’s Largest Medical Facility Unlawfully Fired Nurse Because He Refused to Disobey His Religion, Federal Agency Charged

SAN JUAN, P.R. – Puerto Rico’s largest medical center violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a male nurse’s religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday. Further, the EEOC said, Hospital Auxilio Mutuo unlawfully suspended and fired the employee because of his religion.

According to the EEOC’s suit, EEOC v. Hospital Auxilio Mutuo, Case No. 3:09-cv-1797, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, a male registered nurse told the hospital he could not cut his hair short as an observance of his religion, Santeria. Nevertheless, the man was suspended after he explained his religious beliefs to the hospital and asked for an accommodation. Further, the EEOC said, the hospital retaliated against the nurse by firing him after he complained about the discrimination.

The hospital’s policy allows female employees, but not males, to wear their hair any length, the EEOC said.

Religious discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

“Religious discrimination laws apply to both genders,” said Jacqueline McNair, director of the EEOC’s Miami District Office, which oversees Puerto Rico. “Men and women are entitled to a discrimination-free workplace.”

Nora E. Curtin, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Miami District Office, said, “Employers must respect all religions equally and cannot refuse to accommodate religious expression or observance.”

According to company information, Hospital Auxilio Mutuo is the largest medical facility in Puerto Rico, with more than 600 employees.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at

The EEOC’s Miami District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The Miami District Office has a Field Office in Tampa and a Local Office in San Juan.

This page was last modified on August 13, 2009.

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