CAIR Thanks PA Retailer for Backing Worker’s Religious Rights

Bare Feet Shoes agrees to re-hire employee fired over Islamic scarf

(PHILADELPHIA, PA, 10/19/10) — The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-PA) today thanked Pennsylvania-based retailer Bare Feet Shoes for agreeing to re-hire a Muslim employee fired for refusing to remove her religious head scarf, or hijab. [Bare Feet Shoes is a shoe and clothing retailer that operates some 35 East Coast stores.]

A Bare Feet Shoes official told CAIR-PA that the district manager who fired the Muslim employee has been suspended and that the company will compensate the fired worker for lost wages. The retailer also said it will remind managers of the legal requirement to accommodate the religious practices of employees.

CAIR-PA, along with the law offices of Williams Cuker Berezofsky, yesterday filed a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint on behalf of the Muslim woman who was allegedly terminated on October 7, her first day as a sales associate at a Bare Feet Shoes store in Dover, Delaware. The woman says she interviewed for the job wearing her head scarf.

The firing occurred when a district manager visited the store and noticed that the Muslim employee was wearing a head scarf. The district manager then reportedly told the store manager that the Muslim woman must be either moved to a stock room position where she would not be seen or fired if she refused to remove her scarf.

Despite informing company managers that she wears her scarf for religious reasons, the Muslim employee was dismissed from the job in front of all other employees and left in tears.

“We thank Bare Feet Shoes for its swift response to this incident and hope the company’s positive actions will remind employers nationwide of the legal requirement to accommodate religious beliefs and practices,” said CAIR-PA Executive Director Moein Khawaja

He said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee, unless doing so would create an “undue hardship” for the employer.

Khawaja said an EEOC investigation will still take place to verify the allegations and the company’s response. Any further remedies, damages and legal injunctions will also be determined by the EEOC.

In 2008, the EEOC issued new guidelines on accommodating religious beliefs and practices in the workplace. The guidelines offer protection for workers who wear religious attire such as the hijab.

Khawaja said CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter filed a similar complaint against Abercrombie & Fitch earlier this year on behalf of a Muslim employee who was also fired for wearing hijab.

CAIR’s Los Angeles area office recently resolved a case in which a Muslim intern at Disneyland was initially denied her right to wear hijab while at work. After CAIR’s involvement, a mutually agreeable costume that includes hijab was arranged.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights recently said a Muslim family was wrongly denied access to an aquatic center after employees told them their clothing violated the facility’s rules.

CAIR offers a booklet called “An Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices” to help corporate managers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR-PA Executive Director Moein Khawaja, 267-515-6710, E-Mail: info@philadelphia.cair.com; CAIR-PA Outreach and Communications Director Rugiatu Conteh, 267-515-6710, E-Mail: info@philadelphia.cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: arubin@cair.com

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