A Muslim woman in Phoenix, Arizona was recently awarded $287,000 for religious discrimination when her employer refused to allow her to wear a headscarf to work during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The suit by the EEOC charged that in the post-9/11 backlash, Alamo Car Rental committed religious discrimination when it fired a Somali customer sales rep in December 2001 for refusing to take off her head scarf.
Alamo will pay $21,640 in back pay, $16,000 in compensatory damages, and $250,000 in punitive damages to Bilan Nur.
EEOC attorney David Lopez described Bilan Nur as a remarkable woman. She was a refugee from war-torn Somalia who came to this country as a young woman. “Ms. Nur viewed America as the country that offered her hope, safety, and equality. With the jury’s findings today, Ms. Nur has been reassured that, even after 9/11, Americans still believe in justice for all people. Ms. Nur and the EEOC are both very pleased with today’s results.” Lopez added, “We hope this verdict sends a message to the community that this community will not accept religious intolerance in the workplace.”
According to the lawsuit, Ms. Nur had worn an Alamo-logo scarf, approved by her manger, to work during the Muslim holy month in prior years. After 9/11, however, the manager fired her when she refused to uncover her head at work. Although the company admitted that wearing a headscarf did not violate its dress code, it fired Ms. Nur just eight days before Ramadan would have ended.
The EEOC cites this as just one example of increased religious discrimination against Muslims after the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
This is the first case of religious discrimination filed with the EEOC’s Phoenix office after 9/11, although it is just now wending its way through the federal court system.
“For nearly six years, Alamo has continued to deny that it violated the law when it refused to accommodate Ms. Nur’s religious beliefs and fired her,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC Phoenix District Office. “Judge Silver had already disagreed with Alamo, as did the jury with its award today. Title VII protects people of all religious beliefs, and no one should ever have to sacrifice her religious beliefs in order to keep a job.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment. Employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
A number of cases have been brought in recent years regarding religious discrimination against Muslims. In Pennsylvania, the court ruled that two Muslim men must be permitted to wear facial hair, even though the government agency they worked for specified that employees must be clean-shaven.
Other cases have upheld the right of Muslim women to wear modest attire at work. Those cases have required employers to modify the dress code or reach a reasonable compromise—such as substituting loose-fitting pants for a uniform skirt – for Islamic women.
The discrimination in this case was so clear-cut, that Judge Roslyn Silver took the unusual step deciding that discrimination had occurred before referring the case to the jury. The judge ruled that Alamo had violated the law, and in the subsequent trial, which began on May 29, the jury was asked only to determine the amount of damages to be awarded.
According to EEOC Phoenix District Director Chester Bailey, “Employers need to remember that Title VII protects the religious practices and beliefs of all employees regardless of the nature of their faith.”
Surprisingly enough, Arizona (AZ) job discrimination law in the workplace does not have any specific stautes explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. This does not mean however that an individual may be discriminated against because of such things. In fact in Arizona it is unlawful employment practice to discriminate against any individual because of the individual’s race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin. Such laws are backed by both state and federal mandates.
Arizona (AZ) job discrimination law in the workplace also covers individuals with disabilities. Any employer, labor organization or joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training programs would be in violation if they were to exclude or in any way discriminate against any disabled individual who is an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, to fail or refuse to reasonably accommodate the individual’s disability. It is expected that employers make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee unless the covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of the covered entity.
It can be confusing if not overwhelming for employers to make sure they are in total compliance with Arizona( AZ) job discrimination law in the workplace. It is not in violation of any such laws for an employer to apply different standards of compensation or different terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on a genuine seniority or merit system or a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production or to employees who work in different locations, provided that these differences are not the result of an intention to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Arizona is clear to say that there can be no discrimination in the workplace based on the traditional items: race, color, national origin, gender, age, pregnancy, and, of course, religion. Arizona law is also very clear in regards to procedure and policy surrounding a religious discrimination claim. There is a specific order of steps to take if you have a justified lawsuit.
In Arizona, if you feel you are the victim of religious discrimination, you will receive the assistance of the Attorney General’s office. The support is broad and well documented in Arizona governing policies. The procedure is as follows.
If I feel I have been a victim of religious discrimination in Arizona, I would need to contact a lawyer and file a claim with the Attorney General’s office. Once the claim has been processed, the ACRD will go to work investigating my claim by gathering information, doing site visits, and conducting interviews. ACRD will then decide whether any wrongdoing actually took place. If so, they will then file a civil lawsuit.
During the discovery portion of the investigation, the ACRD acts as a neutral entity. It is only after wrongdoing is established that the Arizona Attorney General’s office actually begins a prosecution.
After that discovery, I wanted to be sure I knew exactly what religious discrimination would entail, so I set out to find more information. Arizona laws follow closely in the footsteps of national laws, which means just about any action based on my religion (or lack there of) that hurts me financially or socially in the workplace is not allowed. Nobody can withhold a well-deserved promotion or pay raise simply because my employer and I pray at different alters. Religious differences must be treated professionally.
The Arizona Civil Rights Act (ARS Section 41-14 01 et seq.) provides a wide range of civil rights protection: voting rights, public accommodations, employment, voting rights and fair housing. In 2002 the legislature acted to bring its statue in line with the American Disabilities Act. The structure of this act places different forms of discrimination in separate articles of the act with a different set of processes and penalties for each of these areas.
Fortunately the act also established a strong division of civil rights under the State Attorney General and provided for a Human Rights Advisory Commission within the division and the tools to enforce the provisions. The Division has both administrative and enforcement functions.
Persons who believe they have been discriminated against should contact the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office: The Division’s major duty is to enforce state and federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in employment, voting, public accommodations, disability and housing by investigating and litigating civil rights complaints. In addition, the Division provides conflict resolution services and mediation programs statewide, including many court and agency programs.
In investigating complaints, the Division has the right to examine and copy evidence, summon witnesses and documents, and to take testimony. This broad range of powers includes the right to intervene in a civil action brought by a complainant against a defendant other than the state.
The Civil Rights Advisory Board investigates and holds hearings on infringements of Arizona civil rights laws and then advises the civil rights division of the Attorney General’s Office. It does not act on individual complaints.
Private actions are permitted, and causes of action are not preempted by administrative action. The statute of limitations for a civil rights action is generally two years.
No worker should have to worry about being discriminated against while on the job. Fortunately, there are federal laws that protect employees from discrimination and harassment. Arizona follows these federal laws when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. No person can be discriminated against or harassed in the workplace. Workers are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Federal law also requires employers to display Arizona state discrimination posters that outline the rights of employees. These Arizona state discrimination posters must be in a place where all workers will be able to see them.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects all workers from discrimination because of race, religion, sex, color, national origin, age, or disability. Workers are also protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and The American’s Disability Act of 1990. These acts help to ensure that all workers will be treated fairly and equally in the workplace.
There are many different ways in which a worker can be discriminated against. A person may be fired from a job because of his/her age. Someone may not be hired because of a disability that could reasonably be accommodated in the workplace. Someone else might be passed over for a promotion because he/she is a different religion than the boss. There are a great many possibilities. If a person feels that he/she has been a victim of discrimination, that person should report the incident as soon as possible.
It is very important that employees know exactly what their rights are when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. For this reason, employers are required to display Arizona state discrimination posters that contain important information dealing with labor and employment laws and rights. The information is required to be in a spot where all employees will be able to access it. If an employer fails to correctly post the information, the employer faces the possibility of being fined and/or penalized.