DOJ Files Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Against Essex County, NJ

Posted on June 8, 2009 In Blog

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a long time advocate for a federal Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) is delighted to see the possibility of a settlement to defend the rights of religiously observant employees. If successful, this case will set important precedents to help in the battle for fair and equitable treatment regardless of religious affiliation in the workplace.

The Department of Justice reports – The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today against Essex County, N.J., alleging that it discriminated against a Muslim corrections officer on the basis of her religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The suit alleges that the county refused to permit Yvette Beshier to wear a religiously mandated headscarf while working as a corrections officer.

According to the complaint, the Essex County Department of Corrections (DOC), first suspended Beshier and then terminated her on the ground that her wearing of a khimar (a head scarf) violated its uniform policy for corrections officers. The complaint alleges that Beshier had requested a religious accommodation that would permit her to wear her khimar, but the DOC denied her request.

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Newark seeks a court order requiring Essex County to adopt a policy that reasonably accommodates the religious observances and practices of employees and prospective employees subject to the Essex County DOC’s uniform policy for corrections officers. The suit also seeks monetary damages and other relief for Beshier.

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