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PRESS RELEASE
12-29-09

Health Care And Retirement Corporation Of America Settles EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

Rehabilitation Care Center Unlawfully Fired Nurse For Carrying Sikh Article of Faith, Agency Charges

DETROIT – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has settled its religious discrimination lawsuit against Health Care and Retirement Corporation of America (HCRCA), a national operator of rehabilitation care centers based in Toledo, Ohio. The EEOC had charged that HCRCA violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at its Canton, Mich., location by discharging former employee Gurmeet Dosanjh because of her Sikh religion.

According to the EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 07-cv-13670 filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan), HCRCA refused to accommodate the sincerely held religious requirement of Dosanjh, whose beliefs require her to wear a kirpan, a small ceremonial dagger. The kirpan, which all baptized Sikhs are required to wear, is worn secured under the clothing in a sheath carried in a harness called a gatra.

Such refusal to accommodate violates Title VII, which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for religious observance and belief, absent undue hardship.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, HCRCA agreed to permit Sikh employees to bear the kirpan secured in a sheath while working and to train managerial staff participating in the accom­modation process on the kirpan accommodation policy. In addition, Dosanjh will receive $15,000 in compensation.

“Employees should not have to check their religious beliefs at the workplace door,” said Laurie Young, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Michigan. “HCRCA could have easily accommodated Ms. Dosanjh’s belief without any cost. The EEOC will vigorously pursue instances of discrimination based on religion.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.