From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...
Nov. 3 — A South Carolina automotive parts manufacturer violated federal law when it refused to hire a Pentecostal job seeker because her faith requires her to wear a skirt rather than pants, the EEOC alleged in a federal lawsuit ( EEOC v. Akebono Brake Corp. , D.S.C., No. 3:16-cv-03545, complaint filed 11/2/16 ).
Clintoria Burnett “has never worn pants, even as a child,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When a temporary staffing agency tried to place her with Akebono Brake Corp., the company’s human resources department told the staffing agency not to hire Burnett for a job in Akebono’s West Columbia, S.C., facility because of her desire to wear a skirt, the agency said in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina Nov. 2.
That’s religious discrimination, the commission claimed, because Akebono refused Burnett employment without even attempting to discuss and accommodate the conflict between her religion and its work rule requiring employees to wear pants on its West Columbia manufacturing floor.
The company also interfered with Burnett’s employment opportunities with the temporary agency, the complaint charged. The lawsuit was filed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The EEOC for years has warned employers of the need to accommodate workers’ wearing of religious garb when consistent with a sincerely held belief and where it would not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business.
In a fact sheet on “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace” posted to its website, the commission cites as an example an Apostolic Pentecostal woman who needs to wear a skirt rather than pants for religious reasons.
Private and public employers “must generally” grant such workers an exception from an employee uniform policy requiring the wearing of pants, the fact sheet says, unless the employer can show the type of skirt the worker seeks to wear “would pose an actual safety hazard.”
Burnett is “an observant member of the Apostolic Faith Church of God and True Holiness” denomination of the Pentecostal Christian faith, according to the EEOC. She sought an exception from Akebono’s pants rule to wear an ankle-length skirt, it said.
The EEOC and the Department of Justice have previously sued and obtained money damages and other relief from employers they believed failed to accommodate a Pentecostal woman’s need to wear a skirt. For example, the commission in April 2014 settled for $40,000, mandatory manager training and other relief a case against a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisee in North Carolina.
Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2015 revived the EEOC’s Title VII claim for a Muslim job applicant denied work by Abercrombie & Fitch because she wears a religious head scarf or hijab.
A representative of Akebono, which is headquartered in Michigan, didn’t respond Nov. 3 to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.
“Under federal law, employers have an obligation to attempt a fair balance between an employee’s right to practice his or her religion and the operation of their business,” Lynette A. Barnes said in the EEOC’s Nov. 3 statement announcing the lawsuit. Barnes is the regional attorney for the commission’s Charlotte, N.C., district office.
EEOC attorney Rachael S. Steenbergh in Charlotte also represents the commission. No attorney has filed an appearance yet for Akebono.
To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of the complaint is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/US_Equal_Employment_Opportunity_Commission_v_Akebono_Brake_Corpor.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)