JANUARY 30, 2018
Keeping with an Obama practice of pursuing American businesses that won’t accommodate Muslims, the Trump administration sued a security company for refusing to modify its grooming standards. This constituted religious discrimination, according to the government, because the Muslim employee requested the grooming exemption in accordance with his “sincerely held religious beliefs.” In a settlement reached this month between the company and the government, the security guard gets $90,000 in damages and the firm must hire an equal employment monitor and revise its religious accommodation policies.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the bloated federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws, filed the lawsuit in December against Allied Universal in United States District Court for the Southern District of California. Allied is a national company with more than 150,000 employees that protect tens of thousands of clients across the country. The plaintiff, William Webb, was hired as a security guard to work in the San Diego area. After getting hired, he asked for the grooming exemption and the company refused. The EEOC, which filed dozens of similar lawsuits during the Obama administration, alleges in its complaint that Allied’s conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs.
“The EEOC’s Complaint alleges that Defendant unlawfully discriminated against Charging Party William Webb (“Webb”) based on religion (Islam) in violation of Sections 701 G) and 703(a) Title VII,” according to the lawsuit. “More specifically, the Complaint alleges that Defendant failed to provide Webb a religious accommodation and discharged him based on his religion, Islam. The commission also alleges that Defendant discharged Webb in retaliation for having engaged in protected activity in violation of Section 704(a) of Title VII.” Besides doling out cash for upholding its longtime grooming policy, Allied must pay for an equal employment monitor—that must be approved by the EEOC—and provide training for all employees, supervisors and managers involved in the religious accommodation process. Among the monitor’s responsibilities is ensuring that the company “maintains and implements nation-wide an anti-discrimination, religious accommodation, and anti-retaliation policy and reporting procedure,” according to the settlement.
In a statement celebrating the victory, an EEOC attorney commends Allied for taking remedies to ensure future religious discrimination will not occur. The agency lawyer also gives notice to other companies that the EEOC will go after them if they don’t follow Allied’s lead in addressing religious accommodation issues. The press release also reminds that “eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights” is a priority of a national Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) launched in 2012 under the Obama administration. Another SEP focus is to help “immigrant, migrant and other vulnerable workers” and crack down on pay disparities that persist based on race and ethnicity. SEP was recently renewed by the Trump EEOC until 2021.
Under Obama the agency took a special interest in protecting followers of Islam by going after American businesses that refused to change longtime policies for Muslim workers. The EEOC sued a clothing retailer with a policy against head covers of any kind for religious discrimination because it would not allow a female employee at one of its stores to wear a head scarf as required by her religion. An Obama-appointed federal judge in northern California handed the administration a victory, ruling that the Muslim woman’s civil rights were violated. The EEOC also helped two Muslim truck drivers get a hefty cash settlement after being fired for refusing to transport alcohol because it violated their religious beliefs. The judge in that case, an Obama appointee in Illinois, ruled in favor of the Muslims and the Peoria-based trucking company had to pay $240,000 in punitive damages. This month’s settlement in the lawsuit against the security company indicates the Trump administration will not put an end to the deranged Obama policies.
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