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Press Release 09-26-2023

EEOC Sues Blackwell Security Services for Religious Discrimination

Employer Refused to Provide Religious Accommodation for Muslim Employee, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO – Blackwell Security Services, Inc., a hotel and condominium staffing company, violated federal law when it refused to accommodate an employee’s religious practice, forcing him to choose between his religion and his livelihood, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee, who worked as a concierge in Chicago, Illinois, is a practicing Muslim who wears a beard as required by his religious beliefs. Soon after he was hired, he was told by a Blackwell supervisor that it was company policy that all employees be clean shaven. The employee requested an exemption from the policy to accommodate his religious practice. However, according to the EEOC’s complaint, Blackwell told him to shave his beard or be terminated. To avoid losing his job, the employee complied.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious observance or practice, unless an accommodation would impose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Civil Action No.1:23-cv-14110), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  

“Title VII requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious practices when doing so does not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business,” said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “The accommodation requested here was a simple one that imposed no burden on anyone, and there was no need for this employee to be forced to choose between his religion and his livelihood.”

Acting District Director in the EEOC’s Chicago office, Diane Smason said, “Title VII protects Americans of all religious faiths and backgrounds, and employers should ensure that they evaluate accommodation requests consistent with federal law.”

For more information on religious discrimination, please visit

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is charged with enforcing federal employment discrimination laws in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. 

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