Employer Fired Passenger Service Agents for Requesting Religious Accommodations, Federal Agency Charges
BOSTON - Aviation Port Services, LLC, a Sumner, Wash.-based nationwide provider of support services to airlines, violated federal law when it fired several employees because of their requests for religious accommodations, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's complaint, Aviation Port Services fired six Muslim female employees from its Boston location after it refused to allow them to continue wearing long skirts at work. Throughout their employment there, all the women worked as passenger service agents and wore long skirts in accordance with their religious beliefs. In late 2016, however, the company told these women that they would no longer be allowed to wear long skirts while working. Instead, the company said the women would have to start wearing either company-provided pants or knee-length skirts, or their employment would be terminated. After requesting a religious accommodation and objecting to this mandate, all the women were fired by Aviation Port Services in January 2017 for failing to comply with this uniform policy.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion, which includes the requirement to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee's sincerely held religious practices, as long as doing so does not impose an undue hardship on the employer's business. Title VII also prohibits retaliation against employees for asking for an accommodation. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Boston Division, (EEOC v. Aviation Port Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-10909) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief. The agency's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Katie Linehan and supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.
"Employers have an affirmative obligation under federal law to make reasonable modifications to company policies, such as dress codes, to accommodate their employees' religious practices," said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "Despite this obligation, Aviation Port Services simply refused to allow these women to continue working in attire consistent with their religious beliefs."
EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, "Federal law is clear: employers cannot refuse to provide a religious accommodation barring an undue hardship, and employees have a right to oppose discriminatory practices without fear of losing their jobs."
The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.