The Religious Discrimination – Reasonable Accommodations Analysis

The law states that all employees should have equal employment opportunities and accommodations indiscriminately. Yet, discrimination is rampant in companies based on religion, gender, and several other classes. Companies have policies and regulations that employees must adhere to in representing the image of their products and services. But, in drafting these policies, they must consider the federal and state laws on discrimination and accommodations. It is within the company’s right to establish a dress code policy for all its employees to observe. In this case, Ms. Adjha Djarra, a Muslim worker for Flip Burger Joint, sued the company because of her manager, Mr. Johnson’s decision to fire her for not refraining from wearing her headscarf at work during the month of Ramadhan. This paper aims to analyze the case and determine if Mr. Johnson discriminated against Ms. Djarra, discussing whether the latter offered reasonable accommodations to the plaintiff and establishing the damages that apply.

Issue

The discrimination, in this case, revolves around the plaintiff’s dress code whereby she had won a religious headscarf alongside the official work uniform. The plaintiff (Ms. Adjarra) had sued her former boss (Mr. Johnson), accusing him of discrimination against her based on religious beliefs and his failure to accord her a reasonable accommodation at the workplace. According to the defendant, Ms. Adjarra had violated the company’s dress code which forced him to fire her. He also argues that he had tried to offer accommodation by suggesting that Ms. Adjarra refrains from wearing the headscarf the following day or she would get fired as a result. Ms. Adjarra made efforts to cooperate with the company’s warning and dressing policy by wearing a headscarf that matches with the uniform and even tried to wear a head visor on top. However, Mr. Johnson was unsatisfied with the plaintiff’s compromises, and given that he was feeling swayed by the negative comments from some customers, he went ahead and fired her. Hence, the issue is whether Ms. Djarra was discriminated against by her manager, Mr. Johnson, at her employer McFatty’s Burger Joint based on her religion. This paper will establish if the defendant terminated the plaintiff based on religious beliefs. Finally, it will determine if the defendant offered Ms. Adjarra reasonable accommodation or failed to do so because of undue hardship to the company.

Rule

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual concerning their compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d.). SEC. 2000e-2. [Section 703] also prohibits an employer from limiting, segregating, or classifying employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or adversely affect their status as an employee because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. A prima facie case has three elements: Firstly, the employee has a bona fide religious belief, the practice of which conflicted with employment duties; secondly, the employee notified the employer of her belief and the conflict; thirdly, the employee was threatened or subjected to discriminatory treatment because of the inability to perform her job duties (Fontana, 2018). If the employee proves a prima facie case, the employer must prove that he initiated a reasonable accommodation or that an accommodation would cause them undue hardship. The employee can also claim religious discrimination on disparate treatment grounds. It refers to the difference in treatment concerning recruitment, hiring, promotion, discipline, discharge, compensation, and other terms or privileges of employment due to an individual’s religion.

Application

Ms. Adjarra can establish a prima facie case of religious discrimination by proving that: Firstly, she had a bona fide religious belief and which she sincerely practiced by wearing a headscarf during the month of Ramadan as required for Muslims observing this practice; secondly, she informed the manager, Mr. Johnson, at the company, of her belief and the conflict; finally, the company, through the manager, threatened to fire her if she could not adhere to the dress code policy. The disparate treatment grounds for discrimination apply in this case. Ms. Adjarra was treated differently than her Christian colleagues, who wore crosses on their necks during work, equivalent to a Muslim’s headscarf. An employer must not make any negative employment decisions simply because the employee does not hold similar religious beliefs as fellow employees (Ghumman et al., 2013). The plaintiff, Ms. Adjarra, was treated differently based on her protected religious status as a Muslim. At the same time, the employer could not prove that there were efforts to reasonably accommodate Ms. Adjarra’s wearing a headscarf during the Ramadan month despite the absence of any foreseeable undue hardship to the company. Mr. Johnson insists that he would not allow the plaintiff to work in a different area where she would not be in direct contact with customers because it would be against the company policy. It indicates that the employer did not consider reasonable accommodation in this case. Also, the option to offer an unpaid leave is unreasonable given the economic status of the plaintiff.

Conclusion

Ms. Adjarra established a prima facie case of religious discrimination against her by Mr. Johnson. The employer failed to reasonably accommodate Ms. Adjarra despite the lack of any foreseeable undue influence; the employer disparately treated Ms. Adjarra based on her religious beliefs. As per the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the defendant, Mr. Johnson, is guilty of discriminating against the plaintiff, Ms. Adjarra, based on her religious beliefs. Ms. Adjarra is entitled to back pay, reinstatement or front pay, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees. The employer acted with reckless disregard. So, the court may award the plaintiff punitive damages. Under Title VII, compensatory and punitive damages are capped based on the number of individuals employed by the defendant (Silbergeld & Turner, 2000). If the employer has 15-100 employees, Ms. Adjarra is entitled to a maximum of $50,000 in compensatory damages and a limit of $50,000 in punitive damages for willful violations. If the employer has between 101-200 workers, the maximum award is $100,000 each. A $200,000 cap is for employers with 201-500 employees. If the employer is not in this category, the cap is $300,000 of damages.

References

Fontana. (2018). Municipal liability: Law and practice (4th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.

Ghumman, S., Ryan, A. M., Barclay, L. A., & Markel, K. S. (2013). Religious discrimination in the workplace: A review and examination of current and future trends. Journal of Business and Psychology28(4), 439-454. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-013-9290-0

Silbergeld, A. F., & Turner, T. L. (2000). U.S. Supreme Court rules on punitive damages in title VII discrimination cases. Employment Relations Today27(1), 131-138. https://doi.org/10.1002/1520-6459(200021)27:1<131::aid-ert11>3.0.co;2-i

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. https://www.eeoc.gov/. https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/title-vii-civil-rights-act-1964