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Press Release 07-18-2012

EEOC Sues ABM Security Services for Religious Discrimination

Company  Fired Muslim Employee Due to Religious Head Covering, Federal  Agency Charged

PHILADELPHIA – ABM  Security Services, Inc., a subsidiary of ABM, one of the largest facility  management service providers in the United States, violated federal law when it  fired a Muslim employee for asking to wear a religious head covering on the  job, the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a  lawsuit it announced today. 

According to the EEOC's suit, ABM  hired Tahira B. El, of Philadelphia, for a security officer position at the  Pennsylvania Convention Center on Feb. 21, 2011.  El is an observant Muslim whose religious  beliefs require her to wear a khimar,  an Islamic religious head scarf that covers her hair, ears and neck.  According to the lawsuit, when El wore her khimar to mandatory training the next  day, she was told she must remove her khimar if she wanted to work for ABM at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.   The EEOC charges that when El could not remove  her khimar due to her religious  beliefs, the company fired her instead of modifying its dress code or offering  another reasonable accommodation to her religious beliefs.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of  1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires an employer to  reasonably accommodate an employee's sincere religious beliefs unless doing so  would pose an undue hardship.

The EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement before  filing suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,  Civil Action No. 12-4075.  The EEOC is  seeking injunctive relief prohibiting discriminatory employment practices based  on religion, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other  affirmative relief for El.

"If an employee faces a conflict  between her sincere religious beliefs and work rules, then the employer must  offer a reasonable accommodation, such as allowing someone to wear a religious  head covering, unless it would be an undue hardship," said District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. of the EEOC's  Philadelphia District Office.  "It is  hard to see how accommodating Ms. El's request to wear her religiously-required  head covering would impose an undue hardship."

EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney  Debra M. Lawrence added, "Federal law protects the rights of people of all religious  faiths in the workplace.  No employee  should be forced to choose between following the dictates of her religion and  earning a living." 

According  to its website,, ABM employs  nearly 100,000 people and had $4.2 billion of revenue in 2011.

The  Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland,  Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. 

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