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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-27-11

EEOC Sues Morningside House Of Ellicott City For Religious Discrimination

Federal Agency Charged That Muslim Applicant Was Refused Hire Because of Hijab

BALTIMORE – An Ellicott City senior living home violated federal law by refusing to hire a Muslim applicant who refused to remove her hijab (a head scarf worn by Muslim women as a religious obligation), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

In its suit against Morningside House of Ellicott City, L.L.C., the EEOC charges that the director of health and wellness asked Khadijah Salim if she would be willing to remove her hijab and expressed concerns that if she were hired the hijab may interfere with her ability to work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Salim responded that she had worn her hijab throughout her nursing training which included working in the operating room and it had never interfered with her ability to perform her duties. Although she was told she would be contacted if someone were interested in her, she was never contacted, nor was she one of ten CNAs who were hired by the employer in September 2010.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit (Case No. 1:11-cv-02766-JKB), filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, seeks monetary and injunctive relief, to include back wages, and compensatory and punitive damages for Salim and changes in employment policies to eliminate future religious discrimination.

“We filed this suit to protect the rights of all employees and applicants to earn a living without being forced to violate their religious tenets,” said Debra M. Lawrence, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which also includes offices in Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. “Making reasonable accommodations to employees’ religious beliefs is not just reasonable, it is required by federal law.”

Religious discrimination charge filings nationwide with the EEOC have increased substantially over the years. In fiscal year 2010, the EEOC received a record-high level of 3,790 religious discrimination charges.

According to its website, www.morningsidehouse.com, “Morningside House has been proudly serving seniors and their families since 1992 and is considered the ‘top-referred’ assisted living and dementia care provider in the Baltimore / Washington area.”

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