Myra Jones-Abid, a Jehovah’s Witness, was fired from her job at a Belk department store in Raleigh, N.C., after she refused to wear a Santa hat while wrapping Christmas gifts. Jones-Abid told her supervisors that wearing the Santa hat would violate her religious beliefs. Belk fired her when she refused.
The EEOC asserts Belk violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by refusing to accommodate Jones-Abid’s religious beliefs. The lawsuit seeks back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Jones-Abid, as well as injunctive relief.
Note: If the allegations are true, Belk could have avoided the entire episode by simply allowing her not to wear the hat. After all, she would have wrapped the gifts the same way with or without the hat.
Advice: Give careful consideration to every religious accommodation request. Document the discussions that follow and record your reason for either granting or refusing the accommodation. Unless you have a valid, business-related reason for refusing to accommodate, you are probably breaking the law.
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