U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Security Company Fired Woman Because of Mennonite Head Scarf, Agency Charged
ATLANTA – The Pollard Agency, a Fruithurst, Ala.-based contract security company, unlawfully discriminated against an employee because of her religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on March 8, 2010.
According to the EEOC’s suit, the Pollard Agency violated federal law by firing Marian Lawson from a client location in Monticello, Ga., rather than accommodating her beliefs as a Mennonite Baptist that she cover her hair with a scarf. The EEOC said that Lawson was fired when Pollard insisted that, as a condition of her continued employment, Lawson remove and refrain from wearing her head scarf on the job. Lawson attempted to explain to her employer that her religion required her to wear the headscarf, the EEOC said, but Pollard refused to provide a reasonable accommodation and terminated her for refusing to comply with the company’s dress code.
Religious discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ and applicants’ sincerely held religious beliefs as long as this does not pose an undue hardship on the business. The EEOC is seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for Lawson. The lawsuit also seeks injunctive relief designed to stop and prevent future discrimination.
“Title VII protects employees from having to make the difficult choice between their religious beliefs and their employment,” said Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “The EEOC is committed to enforcing anti-discrimination law and protecting the religious rights of employees.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.