EEO Roundup: Is Muslim Worker’s Headdress Case Heading to New Jersey's Top Court?


The religious accommodation claim of a former officer at the Camden County Correctional facility is headed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, according to her attorneys.

A state appeals court rejected Linda Tisby’s claim Jan. 18, citing federal case law on the issue and the county’s explanation that Tisby could potentially smuggle contraband into the prison if allowed to wear a khimar—a religious head covering—while working. 

Tisby was fired in May 2015 after refusing to take off her khimar while on the job, despite repeatedly being asked to do so by the county. That violated New Jersey law prohibiting workplace discrimination, she alleged in a lawsuit filed in July 2015. 

“The next step in the case” is to seek review by New Jersey’s highest court, Kevin M. Costello of Costello & Mains LLC told Bloomberg BNA.  He and partner Deborah L. Mains represent Tisby.  CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, disagreed with the state appeals court’s ruling and told Bloomberg BNA it would be reaching out to Tisby’s lawyers to see how it could help. 

The county’s lawyer said the county had valid concerns for worker and inmate safety and in upholding the appearance of neutrality in how its officers present themselves to the public.  “That’s why they’re called uniforms,” Howard L. Goldberg said. 

The New Jersey Supreme Court hasn't previously addressed the question of whether law enforcement entities are required to permit officers to wear religious head coverings at work.

Other recent EEO developments include: 

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced its charge resolution statistics for the agency’s fiscal year 2016, which included obtaining $4.4 million in relief for alleged victims of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.
  • The U.S. Secret Service agreed to pay $24 million to end a 17-year-old class action by a group of black agents who claimed persistent systemic racial bias and harassment at the agency.
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Oracle America Inc. were hit separately on the same day by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs with administrative complaints of pay discrimination.
  • Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to bar businesses from asking prospective new hires for their salary history.

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