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Press Release 01-27-2010

New Community Corporation Pays $25,000 to Settle EEOC Religious Discrimination and Retaliation Suit

Community Development Organization Punished Employee for Refusing to Contribute To Religious Charity and for Complaining to the EEOC, Federal Agency Charged

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Community Corporation, a Newark non-profit community development organization, will pay $25,000 to a former employee to settle a religious discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC's lawsuit, filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark, (Civil Action No. 06 CV 04646), charged that New Community Corporation refused to grant Anthony Kerr, a task force officer employed part-time by New Community Corporation in its security department, a reasonable accommodation when he requested that he be excused from a requirement that employees donate money to a Catholic school that is part of a Catholic parish because the school's religious mission was different than his religious beliefs as a Muslim.  

According to the lawsuit, after Kerr refused to give a donation and complained that the demand for a donation conflicted with his religious beliefs, New Community Corporation removed him from its work schedule.  New Community Corporation briefly restored Kerr to the schedule after receiving a letter from his attorney about possible legal action.  However, the EEOC said, the corporation retaliated against him again after he pursued his complaints with the EEOC by firing him and then filing an improper complaint about him with his full-time employer alleging that he had engaged in misconduct at New Community Corporation.

In addition to the $25,000 for back pay and compensatory damages to be paid to Kerr, the consent decree settling the suit requires New Community Corporation to implement policies and procedures prohibiting religious discrimination and providing for religious accommodations, post a notice about EEOC and the lawsuit, provide conduct anti-discrimination training, and provide reports and permit EEOC to monitor compliance.  
"Employers have no right to impose religious duties on employees who may not share their beliefs," said Spencer Lewis, the EEOC's district director of the New York District Office, which has overall responsibility for cases arising in Northern New Jersey.  "Punishing employees who resist such practices only make a bad situation intolerable."

EEOC Trial Attorney Louis Graziano added, "The EEOC will vigorously enforce the law to end such discriminatory practices.  An employer, even one that engages in charitable work, cannot subject an employee to religious discrimination or retaliation."

New Community Corporation provides housing, medical, employment and other services to lower income residents in Newark, and operates for-profit businesses as part of its economic development programs.  It is one of the largest community development organizations in the United States, with approximately 2,300 employees and assets of more than $500,000,000.

The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.  Further information about EEOC is available on the agency's web site at