FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nathan Diament
February 4, 2009
ORTHODOX UNION APPLAUDS SETTLEMENT OF RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT WITH WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY
Protects Current and Future Employees from Religious Discrimination in Absence of Needed Federal Legislation
The Orthodox Union (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization today applauds the settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for failure to reasonably accommodate the religious needs of the transit system’s employees. (See
The settled case involved, among other issues, Gloria Jones who applied and met all of the minimum qualifications for bus operator position, but could not comply for religious reasons with the portion of WMATA’s uniform policy that required bus operators to wear pants. At the start of the orientation process, Ms. Jones requested an accommodation that would allow her to wear a skirt instead of pants, consistent with her religious practice, along with the rest of the bus operator uniform. WMATA summarily denied her request for a religious accommodation and terminated the hiring process. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, WMATA is required to implement and distribute a religious accommodation policy to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of all employees and prospective employees. WMATA also is required to provide mandatory training on religious discrimination and accommodation for its supervisory employees. Additionally, WMATA will pay monetary compensation to Jones and other employees.
Nathan Diament, Orthodox Union director of Public Policy issued the following statement:
“The Orthodox Union applauds the work of the Department of Justice in this case – to promote and protect religious freedom. People spend more time at their workplace than nearly anywhere else, and thus religious accommodation in the workplace is critical for millions of Americans of many faiths. Sadly, today too many people are still forced to choose between faith and livelihood and, without the Justice Department’s intervention, this case could have been yet another example.”
While a select few states have WRFA laws on the books, most Americans do not have the legal right to have their religious needs accommodated on the job. This case again highlights the need for Congress to enact the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) which would set a single, balanced national standard for the protection of religious freedom in the American workplace.