In the largest class religious discrimination settlement in the history of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the United Parcel Service (UPS) has agreed to pay the EEOC $4.9 million to resolve a lawsuit claiming that the company was biased against current and prospective employees who wear beards and long hair for religious reasons.
The lawsuit alleged that the company’s uniform and appearance guidelines that employees are required to follow are biased against certain religious groups.
In addition to refusing to hire individuals who had beards and long hair, UPS failed to provide these employees with the same opportunities as other employees. For example, UPS only allowed employees with religious-related beards and long hair to work in nonsupervisory jobs that did not involve any customer contact. In addition, they were not considered for promotions and were not provided with faith-based work accommodations, according to the EEOC.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that UPS had to establish a $4.4 million claims fund for the workers who brought the case to the EEOC, as well as a class of other claimants that the EEOC has identified.
With the remaining $500,000 of the $4.9 million settlement, a reserve fund must be established for claimants who have not yet been identified by either party. UPS must also revisit its application forms and religious accommodations processes, and make the appropriate changes.
Religious Charges Have Doubled Over the Past Two Decades
According to the executive director for the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity, since 1997 the number of religious charges filed with the EEOC has doubled. As a result, she said, their organization will be offering a wide range of training programs that will address racial and ethnic intolerance.
Religious freedom is one of the fundamental rights afforded to all citizens of this country, and it must be protected, a judicial analyst for the religious freedom advocacy group Focus on the Family pointed out.
Employers have a responsibility to make religious accommodations that ensure reasonable accommodations for employees, while making sure that it does not impose an unreasonable hardship on the business, according to a Senior Vice President for the Center for Workplace Compliance.
If wearing a beard or long hair presents a safety issue, it could jeopardize the safety of the worker and pose an undue hardship on the employer. For example, if the business involves the use of machinery that poses a constant risk of a caught-in/between accident.
It is important that employers understand that the EEOC will continue to closely examine decisions related to religious discrimination.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Represent Employees in Discrimination Cases
If your religious rights have been violated, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at the Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We will protect your rights and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, where we serve clients throughout South Jersey, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.