A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: religious discrimination

Court to Abercrombie: You Were Wrong

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Finding My Religion

By José I. Ortiz

Last year, in article entitled “Losing My Religion,” LASIS reported on four British employees who brought religious discrimination claims against their employers and lost all the way up through their country’s highest court. Their last recourse was the European Court of Human Rights that decided the four cases this January. Was it a happy ending for these lethargic litigants? As it turns out, the only Cinderella story here is that of Nadia Eweida, who wanted to wear a cross on a chain at her airline job.

This British Airways check-in clerk was awarded €32,000 which the government will have to pay (because that’s who she sued). In its judgment, the court stated that while companies have a right to project their desired image through employee uniforms, this right cannot trump an employee’s right to wear religious icons – to a degree. The decision is not entirely clear, and lawyers in Britain are battling over what it means for everyone else going forward. Meanwhile, the court has received twitter praise from Prime Minister David Cameron who tweeted that “ppl shouldn’t suffer discrimination due to religious beliefs.”

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Ben Stein, Are You Kidding Me?

By Nadia-Elysse Harris

Early last year, actor and self-proclaimed economist Ben Stein (he also slums it as the nasal-voiced Clear Eyes guy) was in serious negotiations with electronics company Kyocera to appear in advertisements for a new line of printers. But when the Kyoto, Japan-based company (that happens to be promoting new, environmentally-conscious products) got wind of Mr. Stein’s view that global warming is a lot of hot air, it decided to find a better representative for its brand.

This left the always outspoken Mr. Stein fuming, and who could blame him?  The contract had the potential to earn him a $300,000 payday. In response to being let go by Kyocera, last month Mr. Stein fired off a 17-page complaint in the Superior Court of California.

His first allegation is that the company breached a contractual obligation.

The problem? The closest Mr. Stein comes to implying the existence of an actual contact is saying that his agent “considered it a done deal.”  But there was no contract, not even a verbal one.  It’s kind of simple. No contract, no breach.

But Mr. Stein has a Hail Mary pass, and that’s his second allegation: The company wrongfully discharged him because of his religious beliefs.

I know people revere the environmental friendly gods Al Gore (Tipper’s ex), Laurie David (Larry’s ex), and other green-friendly celebs, but what does religion have to do with it?

Well according to Mr. Stein, his opinion on global warming is firmly based on “questioning whether man makes the weather or God makes the weather.” And so, he contends, Kyocera discriminated against him based on his religious beliefs and needs to pay up.

Quite a few media outlets poked fun at Mr. Stein’s suit, but they failed to explain why his claim of religious discrimination is so ludicrous. And, if it is indeed without merit why wasn’t it dismissed immediately? We’ll explain.   (more…)

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Just in Time for Hannukah…

By David M. Krisch

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Rye Bread. Or according to Sunday’s New York Times, to wed under a huppah.  But do you have to be Jewish to sue your employer for engaging in and allowing anti-semitic behavior?

Last August, executive assistant Ciro Rosselli filed a lawsuit against his employer McKinsey & Co. in the Southern District of New York, alleging religious discrimination and a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although the allegation sounds pretty commonplace, the facts of this lawsuit are anything but.

It all started with a yarmulke.

A yarmulke is a religious skullcap that Jewish men wear to show their respect for God; it also signals to the world that the men wearing them are Jewish.  But Mr. Rosselli, who practices “Theosophy,” began, as part of his spiritual exploration of life, to wear one to work.  This did not go over big with his coworkers, many of whom ridiculed him.  One coworker noticing him sporting the head covering accused him of trying to mask a bald spot.  His supervisor was even more direct, crying, “Take that off!” “You’re creeping me out!” And some made what Mr. Rosselli says were pointed anti-semitic references, such as “I guess I won’t be asking you for a loan.”

The media may have broken this story, but that’s about it.

Title VII prohibits the harassment of employees because of their membership to a protected class such as religion.  So we wondered — as others surely did — can an employee sue for religious discrimination targeting a religion he doesn’t belong to?   (more…)

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“Remove the Hijab or You’re Fired!”

By David Krisch

Twenty-year old Hani Khan, a former employee of Hollister, a clothing store owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, has sued the company in Northern California federal court alleging religious discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against employees, is litigating the case.

Ms. Khan, a Muslim, claims that four months into her employment, she was approached by a pair of visiting managers asking her to remove her hijab, a religious headscarf, to comply with the store’s look policy. She refused to do so and was terminated. While sources have plenty of information about Ms. Khan’s lawsuit, they have not taken a look at the merits of her case. We will.   (more…)

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