Health care provider pays $75,000 in ‘scrub skirt’ religious bias suit

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(RNS) – A Tennessee-based health care provider will pay $75,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit involving an Apostolic Pentecostal nurse who wanted to wear a “scrub skirt” to work. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said the company denied the nurse’s right to religious accommodation.

Wellpath LLC hired Christian nurse Malinda Babineaux in 2019 to provide health services at the Central Texas Correctional Facility in San Antonio. After accepting the job offer in Texas, Babineaux informed the company’s human resources team that his religious beliefs required him to wear a scrub skirt, rather than traditional scrub pants, to work. in accordance with codes of modesty. The company refused to respond to his request and rescinded his job offer. According to the lawsuit, Babineaux had previously worn scrub skirts in other nursing positions.

Scrub skirts, though rarely seen in American hospitals, are preferred by some religious women, usually for reasons of modesty. In a 2010 article on the nursing forum website Allnurses.com, a woman identified herself as “a Pentecostal woman, who wears skirts instead of pants for religious reasons” and asked, “Is can I wear scrub skirts in a clinic? setting?”

In another thread on the same website, another poster criticized scrub skirts, saying they “limit your range of motion when providing patient care” and that “nurses haven’t routinely worn scrub skirts since that they have gained some respect as a profession”.

Last month, a prospective Muslim medical student asked other Reddit users if it was common to see scrub skirts, saying, “Dressing modestly is important to me and I don’t want to give it up. when there are scrub skirts available”. Another user replied, “I saw orthodox Jewish nurses wearing them, no one batting an eyelid.


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The EEOC filed a lawsuit in September 2020 on behalf of Babineaux, alleging a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination. The settlement requires Wellpath LLC to provide the nurse with $75,000 for back wages and compensatory damages. Wellpath has also agreed to inform employees of their rights and provide anti-discrimination training that includes issues related to religious dress and grooming.


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

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