EEOC Files Title VII Suit Against Cafe Over Pants Requirement for Female Pentecostal Employee

We take a break today from disability discrimination cases to bring you news of a religious discrimination lawsuit filed against an employer who insisted on strict application of its dress code, at the alleged expense of an employee’s right to a religious accommodation.

Sleneem Enterprises, LLC, a franchise operator of Tim Horton’s Café and Bake Shop in Romulus, Mich., violated federal law by refusing to permit an employee to wear a skirt instead of pants in accordance with her religious beliefs, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit filed on June 19.

In its suit, the EEOC charged that employee Amanda Corley wore a skirt to work at the Tim Horton’s Romulus location instead of the standard uniform pants. She did so pursuant to her Pentecostal Apostolic faith. When she attempted to present a letter from her pastor explaining why she could not wear pants, management refused to accept the letter and informed her she was fired.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodations to employees. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 2:17-cv-12337 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Sleneem from discriminating against other employees who need religious accommodations in the future as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and other affirmative relief for Corley.

“Sleneem’s refusal to accommodate Corley and the decision to instead fire her were completely unjustified and unlawful,” said EEOC Indianapolis Regional Attorney Kenneth Bird, whose jurisdiction includes Michigan. “It would have been simple to allow Ms. Corley to wear a skirt, and would not have negatively impacted the business in any way. Employers have an obligation to provide these types of reasonable religious accommodations, and when they fail to, the EEOC will step in.”

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