Employer pays $75,000 to settle claim it won’t let nurse wear scrub skirt as religious accommodation

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Diving brief:

  • Wellpath, a company that provides health services to correctional facilities, will pay $75,000 to settle complaints of religious discrimination filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced February 1st.
  • In its lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that a nurse was denied the reasonable accommodation of wearing a scrub skirt, as opposed to scrub pants, at work. His apostolic Pentecostal Christian beliefs required him to dress modestly and wear skirts instead of pants, the EEOC said.
  • As part of the settlement, Wellpath will provide anti-discrimination training and distribute a notice informing employees of their rights, the EEOC said. Wellpath did not respond to request for comment by press time.

Overview of the dive:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their religion, in addition to a number of other protected characteristics such as race, sex and national origin . The EEOC enforces this and a number of other anti-discrimination laws.

Unlike most of the other components of Title VII, its prohibition of religious discrimination has an element of accommodation. EEOC attorney Philip Moss addressed this in the agency’s press release regarding the settlement.

“Under federal law, when a workplace rule conflicts with an employee’s sincere religious practice, an employer must attempt to find a workable solution,” Moss said. “These regulations should underscore the importance of employers taking positive steps to comply with their obligations under anti-discrimination laws.”

Religious discrimination lawsuits that include non-accommodation claims typically focus on shift availability, making this case somewhat novel. But the EEOC has already sued companies for accommodation issues centered on religious dress. The agency alleged in 2019, for example, that Greyhound Lines violated federal law by refusing to allow a Muslim bus driver to wear religious attire consistent with his beliefs. The company paid $45,000 to settle the allegations two years later.

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