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If You Fire an Employee for Wearing a Headscarf, Expect a Lawsuit

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 15, 2015 1:59 PM

Do employers never learn? Firing an employee solely because of the headscarf she is wearing as a part of her religious beliefs is just asking to be sued!

Rotten Ralph's, a bar in the Old City, Philadelphia, was happy to hire Tia Rollins when she wasn't wearing a headscarf. But, a few days later, Rollins was out of a job because her manager didn't like her headscarf.

Now, the restaurant is being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Religious Discrimination

Tia Rollins is Muslim. When Rollins was interviewing to be a server at Rotten Ralph's, she wasn't wearing a khimar, or headscarf. However, she did notify the restaurant's general manager, Sharwin Coates, when she was hired that she would need to cover her hair, especially during Ramadan, for religious reasons.

After only a few days on the job, Coates became unreasonably "outraged" by Rollins' khimar. Coats claimed that Rollins khimar violated the company's policy against wearing hoodies and immediately fired her.

Rollins and the EEOC were unconvinced that her firing was truly because of a uniform policy violation. (A hoodie and a headscarf look nothing alike.) Instead, Rollins believed she was fired because of her religion. So, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Rotten Ralph's for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected people from unfair treatment and discrimination in many areas of life. More specifically, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination.

Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and potential employees on the grounds of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and pregnancy. The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for an employees' religious beliefs and practice, unless doing so would be overly burdensome to the employer.

In this case, Rollins requested a religious accommodation when she notified Coates that she wore the headscarf for religious reasons. Coates may have violated Title VII when he denied her accommodation request and fired her specifically because of it.

The EEOC is demanding that the restaurant institute policies that would prevent future religious discrimination and pay Rollins back pay and compensation for emotional pain and suffering.

Avoid getting sued for religious discrimination, and consult with an experienced business attorney to ensure that your company's policies do not violate Title VII.

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